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37 The Ship

hexagram-37-ship‘THE WHOLE CREW is crowded into the crow’s nest, scanning for Half-way Island.
The leak is relatively small, so probably you’ll get there.’

A cliff of portholes blocks your view at the end of a terraced street.
Riveters migrate on other people’s handiwork, then find their berth and
fill the air with the blues. Rivet catchers hold out tin cans like the beggars
they are not. Between the deafening creek of delivery and the wrecking
shore deathbed, the pages of an iron-clad blockbuster turn on the tides.

1st – The Ship of Fools
On embarking you must look out for a man with a saxophone tie – the
signal for the secret poker game. He’ll slip a card into your pocket.
An irregular holding pen for the soul, echoing like a gaol, squats behind a
bulkhead. When the white cliffs loom you’ll be penniless and free.

2nd – The Style Ship
A big-hearted film director is treating a bunch of pals to a steampunk
orbit. Levers are the ultimate in retro-futurism; dials are cutting-edge. The
colour scheme is fifties. There’s a plush sofa. Even in blazing daylight some
guests spend hours admiring their role models beamed out of old movies.

3rd – The Ship Aground
While the captain below jokes about property charts with his girlfriend,
her brother, a maths student, commands the bridge. He has a friend in
a writer’s workshop in Ovid’s crumbling house. Megaphone in hand, he
steers so close to the shore they can recognise each other’s beards.

4th – The Toy Ship
The salty old merchant seaman with Popeye on one bicep, Olive Oyl on
the other, has Steiner teachers at his feet sharing manly plugs of chew.
What a godsend to Cheltenham! It’s summer, requiring a clever substitute
for ice. In lordly self-delusion SS Titanic chugs among irascible swans.

5th – The Pirate Ship
Cringing is good for the soul: hence karaoke and pirate radio. Best of all
is mock-heroic larks, as when a boatload of groupies arrive in branded
T-shirts and filch the Jolly Roger. You need the anger room but there isn’t
one. There’s no escape. You’d give anything for a plank, merciful sharks.

6th – The Wandering Ship
The geopolitics of the cruise, for some, revolves around the captain, their
morning and evening star. In between, the souk, the pyramid, the tennisball
minerals, the petrified forest – fragments gathered for his table. For
others he’s a small tax on free will, a stiffening of amply deserved leisure.

All six – The Ship Burial
The afterlife could never be a mainland, since our deepest longings
require shores that do not slip sideways into foreignness. If the wind bends
the smoke plume seaward, the gods may approve of our memory, love and
honour rolled into one, and of him, with his thrall girl for company.

Introduction to Six-Way Mirror | The Index of Hexagrams and Cantos


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