Raleigh’s Last Journey, 1617

Scorched by the sunlight, he shivers his fingers
down the cracked map. The dream persists:
somewhere there is a mine. His thin wrists
and beaten face betray him again. He lingers,

imagining the opulence of the hour
when, facing the court with gracious pleasure,
he will furnish them with proof of treasure.
They will applaud, discreetly. The cold tower

room will be sealed. He’ll return to his wife.
Sixty-five years, and the case of shakes
will vanish like broken smoke. His aches,
his old bones will heal. He’ll crown his life

with crowds, with the sound of cheers
loud in his deafened ears. He murmurs some thanks.
Downstream, his lawless son, breaking ranks,
has already been blown apart, but Raleigh hears

nothing of this. Nor does he hear the warrant
being scrawled for his arrest, the forced march
and the judas warders waiting by the arch,
nor the fraudulent thoughts of the king, the torrent

of accusations, nor imagine the taffeta breeches
and satin in which he will walk to the block,
his inspection of the axe. He waits here, by a rock,
on the patient and emptied Guyanan beaches.

From the book Rime Present