There once was a shipwright who was both brave and wise
who for all of his life sought a way to devise
a ship, a miraculous magical ark
that would skin through the skies on the waves of the dark.
For the dark, it is whispered, flows in from the East
every night from a land where all living things ceased
to dwell long ago, and so it is told
that the land is now twisted and strange to behold.
So the old shipwright gathered the lore that he sought
in secret, from books and by spells that he wrought,
until all was ready, he soon would embark
on the ship he had built that would sail with the dark.
But before he could cast off he must have a crew
of friends he could trust and bold men who would do
whatever he ordered, though foolish it seemed
to plot such a course, of which few men had dreamed.
The shipwright found two men he’d known all his life,
one young who as yet had no lady nor wife,
and one whose two sons had been killed long ago
and whose wife soon had followed, bestricken with woe.
Now all that was left was the very small task
of stocking the larder with food and with flask.
But soon all was done, it was time to begin
their great voyage in the night with the dark rolling in.
The crew boarded the ship while the shipwright stood by
staring up at his work ‘neath the gray twilight sky,
then he christened his ship THE GRAYMALKIN and cried
“Weigh anchor, we sail with the darkening tide!”
The anchor was lifted, the sails unfurled,
the men all grew quiet as clouds above swirled.
The ship strained and shuddered, then rose from the ground
and spun round toward the East, for the dark it was bound.
All night the ship sailed to and fro in the dark
while the crew only heard the occasional bark
of a dog down below that had chanced to catch sight
of a ship being tossed by the waves of the night.
For hours they sailed o’er lands that they knew
till they heard a cock crow to say morning was due.
Then the time the old shipwright had worked for drew nigh
for the dark was now flowing, leaving light in the sky.
THE GRAYMALKIN shuddered much worse than before
and it shook in a way the crew could not ignore.
The ship’s timbers cracked and it seemed it would go
falling down through the sky to the ground far below.
But the shipwright stood calm at the helm of his ship
while his muscles all strained lest he loosen his grip
on the wheel he held that would keep them on course
as he prayed to the gods that things would grow no worse.
Soon the lights of the village were left far behind.
The ship was in darkness, the crew rendered blind.
But the night’s tide had settled, the ship had held true
as it sailed through clouds over lands that none knew.
The shipwright tied lanterns to long ropes and chains,
then he lowered them down to light strange alien plains
where odd creatures and things of the dark would be found
staring up at the ship without making a sound.
But what scene did they see with the lights down below?
What sights did they find in the lanterns’ bright glow?
Just people! The same as the shipwright and crew.
Just people who didn’t quite know what to do.
They stood outside houses in nightgowns and caps
while still more were coming to fill in the gaps
in the crowd ‘neath the strange ship that hung overhead
till soon not one person was left still in bed.
The old shipwright smiled at the crowd down below,
then he waved and he laughed and called down a “Hallo!”
Then the lights were extinguished, the crew worked in the gloam
while they waited for darkness to bear them back home.
The hours passed slowly aboard the strange ark
while they waited on deck for the waves of the dark
to carry them homeward, their great voyage all done.
Their adventure was over, their goal had been won.
The shipwright was happy, THE GRAYMALKIN had flown
with the dark to a land that was not so unknown
as the shipwright had thought, for the legends he’d read
had said almost nothing of plain folk a’bed.
So the old shipwright settled to live just as before,
but he stopped reading tomes full of legends and lore.
THE GRAYMALKIN lay empty, he would never embark
again on his ship that could sail with the dark.
Copyright 2016 by Art Metzger. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.