Summary: ‘Nautical’ is a poem by a poet based in Kerala, India, Milanth Gautham.
1. of or relating to sailors, ships, or navigation
Inertia caught a sailor once,
in the middle of the ocean,
on an ordinary day,
just like today.
It caught on to other sailors:
first it was one
then another one
then two, then three…
“Like a Series”
Shouted one of them
before inertia caught him too
Or was he just counting battens?
We may never know.
The medicine man came up with a remedy:
You need to boil a horse’s heart
sliced into pieces
in a clay pot
with a brass spoon
at a specific heat
until it reaches its melting point
Or until it becomes silver white…
But Inertia caught him too.
It had caught the butcher a long time ago, anyway.
It never caught the horses though,
Maybe because of their heart.
The density of air got thinner
as inertia devoured sailors one by one.
Like lovers do to reading rooms
On lonely rainy nights.
Some kept doing what they were doing
with an indifference
of snow falling on a cadaver
Some stopped doing what they were doing
Not knowing why or why not.
The captain of the ship was French
With dutch braiding
“J’ai mal au…”
He couldn’t finish the sentence.
All of them had glazed eyes.
And the resistance to Inertia also varied.
The horses had the most
Those who were reading fiction had the least.
A poet was peeking at the waters down
when Inertia caught him.
He fell into the water
forming an arch in the atmosphere
No one felt his loss
except the sand beneath the waters.
There were others
whose loss would have been felt
but inertia made everything
part of its slow, lethargic masonry.
Crests floated on waters
around the still, moving vessel.
At the end,
Inertia, at the peak of its appetite
swallowed the whole vessel
from all dimensions
Everything fell silent
except for the music
for the dances continued,
Everything stood still
except for the conversion
of wind into movement
for no wind ever catches inertia.
I am not overcrowing
when I tell you this:
when we found the first corpse floating
across the cobalt blue waters,
it was 21 days old.
Cover image by Miles Iwes/ Pexels. The copyright of ‘Nautical’ belongs to Milanth Gautham.