Bill of Lading

by R.S. Mengert

     If you can empty your own boat
     crossing the river of the world
     no one will oppose you.
Chuang Tzu

I started emptying my boat
late into my journey,
mid- stream, already attacked, rammed,
boarded by pirates.
My boat was leaking
when I started emptying my boat
to cross the river
unopposed, only to discover
I had already crossed the river
opposing with the cutlass and the cannon
every boat I saw,
full or empty.
My boat was sinking
when I started emptying my boat
not half a league from landing on the shore
only to discover that
for every thing I emptied
from my boat —
anchor, life raft, mast and rigging —
I picked up something bigger, something heavier.
Empty keg, spent cannonballs,
rusted cutlass, albatross carcass,
I picked them up and stowed them in the hull
until my overloaded boat sank
just before landfall.