The Water Knot

Posted on May 15, 2018


Cover photo courtesy of Roger Mosley.

Stories of the Sea 2018 Entry

The Water Knot

I was going to record this, because it was written to be read and it just doesn’t seem to come off on the page, but time shortens. I basically had 10 minutes to tell a novel-length concept, so I read my draft outline. Dunno, seemed to work last year when I wrote the story at lunch and edited it at the bar.

Many men love the Sea unrequitedly

But only one man, she too did love

This is the story of Arausio and Merrill

A man and the Sea


At the edge of the world

There is a land at the end of lands

Beyond which, there is only ocean

Until the sea meets the sky

And they become one

Here, Arausio lived in a shack of whale bone and sea glass

Flotsam, jetsam, and drift

He built a boat, slim but with a mighty sail

For the wind to kiss

And oars to skull the water like a lover’s caress

He set out before the dawn to tend his nets

And every night return

His days spent dreaming upon the waves

Life is the blind casting and seeking

Hauling and heaving

Of nets upon cold waters

Divining the underlying shoals

By good luck and bad

Until you have a story

You can tell yourself

A net of order upon the tides

For years the waves beat at Arausio’s door

A great water clock

By which his story was written

In scripts of sailing, fishing, salting, and mending

One day like any other

As Arausio was upon his lover’s breast

A water spout arose

Like the curtain a line makes

When you pull it from the depths

White horses running

In a field of snow

A black tempest followed

A hawk upon a flushing rabbit

A great storm brewed within Arausio

What dark magic was aloft?

He hauled his nests and hoist his sail

To chase the sea

Whipped by the cacophony of wind and ran

His tiller hand yet held true

His boat a long knife slicing

The tempest took the wave

Amidst the rape, a maelstrom forming

As the bottom fell from the sea

Still, into the oceans heart sailed Arausio

Until, bow above the abyss

He cast his net into the vortex

In the storm’s eye

The sky beat upon him

The water refused to yield

His sinews cracking

Inch-by-inch he won his prize

And in his hand beheld

A water knot flowing endlessly in coils

That his mind could not follow

The tempest shrieked its demise

The sea breathed in ragged sighs

A clay jar the knot’s repose

Arausio sailed home upon the Milky Way’s teary veil


That night Aurosio awoke to singing

In his yard  a maiden dancing

Moon silver hair swirling clouds

And skirts surging around her legs

Like waves pouring over rocks

“I am Merrill

Where goes my heart

So do I go

Everything I am

Belongs to you

No knot so bound

May be unbound

No bond so freely given

Can be unmade”

It was years since dusty words found his tongue

“As I will not be bound, I will not bind

Of men, you do not know

I would not take what you would give

I want nothing I do not already lack

She laughed in tidal susurrations

“I know this man

He knows not himself

His heart knows what it wants

His mind sees it without recognition

Sometimes we are driftwood

Cast upon the tide

Sometimes we are a beach where lost things land

If I am a wave

Will you be my sand?”

Into the house she danced


The next day

Once, twice, thrice Arausio cast

Once, twice, thrice he threw his catch back

On the fourth, he could take no more

Beaten, he rowed to shore

Gunwales brimming with gold and jewels

“Merrill, you are a queen

But these riches we cannot eat

The only gold I need

You do wear

The wealth I covet

The sun in your hair”

She laughed like rain and waved her hand

“Last night you spoke untrue

I know much of man

But I know ought of you”

Many years the water clock

Boomed and whispered at their door

One cold day

The tax man blew in like a winter frost

From their golden cups he drank

But it was Merrill who filled his eye

“Your emperor needs his share,” said he

Arausio dashed the cup and replied

“I have been pauper and I have been king,

My ruler sea is the sea that stands ever before me

I want nothing that in my hand can be held

Of nothing at my back am I thrall

Tell your ruler, he can have it all.”

Merrill pushed sacks of gold

Upon the wretched man

“Now who knows aught of men?

We will be seeing the likes of him.”


Her futures told, their fates were true

Not one day of spring went by

Before debarked a mighty fleet

Waves of fearless men

Those who sow death and scythe it

Or are scythed by it

Broke upon the beach

Arrayed there like dunes

Once, before he came to the World’s End

Arausio, such a man had been

He had no fear of such men

In front of the whaleborne house

Stood a man all in gold and in white

Next to him the Tempest

In robes of sunless black

Here was the enemy

Arausio once had beaten back

“I have heard you keep riches from me

You pay with riches gold, but keep a queen”

Arausio gave voice to the storms in his eyes

“All I have I take from where there are no roads, no fences

I do not profit from your wars

To no man will I bend my knee

None shall have my queen”

The king’s sword on its draw sung

“I own the land

I own the sea

What you take

You take from me

When I leave, shall you yet breathe?”

Merrill’s voice was gravel in the tide

“For his life, you win a queen

Take me to your side

Take me to the sea”

And men with chains she they did swath

“These chains cannot bind me

I have already given myself in a knot

That once bound cannot be unbound

For binding does not love unmake

What you take

You will never own”

They shackled Merrill before the mast

And plowed white furrows with their bows

Fresh scars across a world defiled

The very least of it surpassing all villainy

Arausio took the jar to the cliff

“The sea is my lover

And she loves me

I do not unbind

This knot I know I cannot cut

As always you were

So shall you be

Shackles unchained and freedom made

I smash your prison and set you free”


The wind came down from the mountains

With jasmine and with spice

The king at the rail beamed

“The wind freshens and our luck holds true

My new love bears us fruit.”

The admiral chewed his beard and looked abaft

Where dark clouds brewed like ale in a glass

“Do not mistake

Luck for fate

Unbind her now, or seal our doom

A watery grave

For her groom”


Arausio put to sea

The breeze was fresh, but the water foul

The whip and whistle of the cords in the rigging

Mirrored in the cords of the man

One wave like a mountain range arose

Tall and jagged in his path

Growing until it brushed the sky and curled

An irresistible maw closing upon the fleet

Swallowing men like beasts in the field

Who made dung while they were fattened

And whose meat went to insatiable jaws

Which spat bits of bone and wood

From between its teeth

He sailed through their folly

He sailed through their war

He sailed through their wisdom, too late gained

To them Arausio cast not an eye

“What you took, king

Was never mine to give

You could take my lover from me

But you could control the heart of the sea.”


Arausio chased the storm past the horizon

Sailing to where the sky meets the sea

Where only there could he and his love be

On nights cold and true

If you are brave enough

And you sail far enough

And your luck holds as steady

As the wind at your back

You can see them in the heavens

A great galaxy whorling

In a celestial water knot

A heart-shaped current in the sky

And while you may swoon for her

You can never have her

A lover to your side


Many men love the Sea unrequitedly

But only one man, she too did love

This is the story of Merrill and Arausio

A wave and her beach

Sometimes we are lost
Adrift in the currents
And sometimes we are shores
Where the lost come to lie

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