This poem was inspired by the St. Brandon story in Gene Wolfe's book Peace.

If you don't know the main conceit of Peace (which most readers don't realize until most of the way through the book, if they realize it at all), be warned that this poem gives indirect spoilers for it.

                           Solitary Voyage

                                Peter Shor

I set sail for new worlds many years in the past,
A coffin for my vessel, a tombstone for my mast,
A rat my Quartermaster, and a cat my sole Hand;
Our intended destination was the Promised Land.

We made landfall on the beach in the dark of the night.
The Quartermaster and the Hand straightway began to fight.
An angel came out of the woods, and asked me “Who are they?”
“They are wickedness,” I told him, “and a godless fay.”

I’ve been watching from the sidelines to see which will win.
There are angels watching, too, but they won’t let me in,
And my ship is sunk, and the ocean too wide
To ever cross back again.

Peace is a difficult and subtle book; I’ve read it at least half a dozen times, and every time I read it I pick up some new implied event or symbolism that I think Wolfe put in, and that I didn’t notice before. And while Peace inspired this poem, and it inherits some of Peace’s symbolism, I have tried to write it so that it also stands on its own. I hope I succeeded.