Scott Nicolay & Lesley Wheeler

Nereids flick silver wrists, flaunt their haunches,
flash their breasts for baubles. On board, Ulysses’
men go wild, toss gold by armloads. Beneath the
    sea’s mirror, Neptune
reads a novel, immersed in its alien world--where
teenagers hanker for magic powers, and find them,
wandless but aided by griffins, dragons, the fantasy
    bestiary.  Loving
tales of bipartite beasts and adolescent
adventures young gods were denied. Building a
cosmos left no time for fun. Hell, he sighs, and
    turns to the next page,
peeling off a sticky starfish.  Beneath it, scribbled
marginalia:  Purify yourself, it commanded.
Startled, he riffled, found those wavering characters
    scattered like sea lice.
What a life, he thinks -- the whole thing's a bath. Still,
look at brother Pluto's lot: talk about short
straws. They made him, what? A dog? Now he leches
    after lolitas
dressed in flirty togas, gathering daisies.
Neptune tosses the book away, disgusted,
arrows off in a net of bubbles.  Baptism,
    schmaptism.  Oceans
ripe with aggravation await him, naughty
sea-nymphs bound, unbound, their arms gold-bound now. Drowned
men abound, drift down in the gilded rain, blank
    blue faces clownish.
Green-wreathed wrecks are hunching on sandy deserts,
haunted by eyeless swimmers.  Volcanoes belch out
methane and great worms suck from their fuming lips.  
    Hideous monsters
goggle at them through thick glass portals, wield chill
steely probes to pluck sponges. Aye, Calypso!
Submersibles circle your hull, to lilting
           Portuguese lyrics
sung by a diver strumming a lute.  Meanwhile,
destiny rafts toward him on an iceberg,
paddling furiously, one brother's lightning
           sizzling overhead
arcing Tesla bolts, excess voltage toasting
Hyperion’s cattle and elephants far
off as Eritrea. A jealous god, beard
    gone green as oak leaves,
not as green as Neptune’s saline solution,
warming now to melt the sliver of winter
at the horizon.  The sea-god breaches, shades his
    changeable eyes.  Who
knew these oblique strategies all would fail so
badly: heroes never mirror heaven, oil
floats on water, vinegar still won’t yield wine,
        fish tails on women—
well, that combo works, Neptune admits, watching
Destiny wriggle off her peek-a-boo iceberg
as the last of it vanishes, winking.  Impurity’s
    upshot, enchanting.