The Navigator’s Wife
after Ann Flinders (nee Chappelle) circa 1814
Thought she was going with him
that first time, south into sea and storms
but after 13 years only got him back to die
her eyes already blind from weeping
pressing his cold fingers to the first
copy of his ‘Voyages’ - too late
he’d already gone - without her again
uncharted this time, and on a ghost ship
beyond landfall from whose silence
no letters ever get back
threading a needle in freezing winter light
rain bumping on the glass
setting her own sad course into the vast
and lonely ocean of another afternoon.
Jeff Guess page 110
Death of Matthew Flinders
19th July 1814
Even as an eager if a slight young man,
sailing out of the romance
of Defoe's prose in a leaky decayed ship-
he should have seen the death in that.
A kind of pragmatism saved him:
for a time - giving shape to his own life
and the strange island continent
he drew a convoluted line around.
Even the years in a French prison:
sunk into his maps - a life's work,
he kept his spirit sharp
in the notes of a borrowed flute.
But going home sick with scorbutic ulcers
and worse - at 39 looked 70;
sailing in agony into the pages
of his own long illustrated narrative.
Two weeks before he died
asked for a new copy of 'Crusoe'
and in pain and weakness dreamed of
his own great 'South' island and the ship.
Then finally complete - Annette brought
his bound, printed 'voyage' to the bed-
too late. He had already gone - falling
over the edge of all the known world.
Jeff Guess page 126
©Jeff Guess 2017