Body Politic

When they bought expensive tickets
for a cruise on the Flying Dutchman
they didn’t know they wouldn’t be going home again.

But they were a rugged and resourceful lot
so when the captain announced
they’d be rounding the Cape of Good Hope
and wouldn’t land until the Day of Judgment
they were hardly daunted at the prospect
of endless afternoons of shuffleboard
of manicures and waterpark attractions
of hot tubs and book clubs and IMAX movies
of dancing classes and slot machines
of gourmet dining and mariachi bands
and dice games with the devil.

But life as a mirage has its frustrations
even for the elite and wealthy.
Opinions festered in such incestuous quarters
and when passengers uttered those opinions aloud
they came quite sensibly to hate each other.
(There is no such thing as a humble opinion.)
Meanwhile the ship stayed merrily afloat
and the rats weren’t going anywhere
but still the opinions had to be unloaded somehow
or riots would surely break out
and passengers might even get cranky.

Now part of the Dutchman curse
is an infinite supply of cocktail napkins
and empty champagne bottles
so passengers began frantically scribbling
their opinions down and corking them up
and throwing them overboard
so unfortunate fools would find them
and put them into regular currency on land.

I’m sure you can see the problem now.

The oceans are clogged and strangled with bottles
and the surging tide from that Archimedean bulk
floods beaches and the flailing sanity of cities
and we sing “Auld Lang Syne” and pop the corks
and knock opinions from the bottles
and read them and pass them ’round
like fortune cookie notes from some Fata Morgana
doomed ourselves to drowning
in the rising shallows.

Wim Coleman is a playwright, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer. His play The Shackles of Liberty was the winner of the 2016 Southern Playwrights Competition. Books that he has co-authored with his wife, Pat Perrin, have been published by Harmony Books, Pocket Books, and Bantam. Their award-winning novels include Anna’s World, which was the Silver Medalist in the 2008 Moonbeam Awards, and The Jamais Vu Papers, which was a 2011 finalist for the Eric Hoffer/Montaigne Medal. Wim and Pat lived for fourteen years in Mexico, where they adopted their daughter, Monserrat, and created and administered a scholarship program for at-risk students. Wim and Pat now live in Carrboro, North Carolina. They are active members of PEN International. Read other articles by Wim, or visit Wim's website.