A Tribute to the Ferryman

Veiled from the mortal eyes, there is
A lifeless, shadow-drowned abyss
With landscapes wrapped in shifting mists
Spewed from the ever restless Styx,
Which shroud a host of specters pale.
Throughout this somber chasm rise
The piercing sounds of anguished cries,
Unanswered prayers, and hopeless sighs
That in this chasm swell.

With heavy steps and faces blank,
They drag themselves toward the bank —
Toward the waters wrathful, rank,
Where brave yet foolish specters sank,
Who tried to do what few would dare
And swim across the nether stream;
Each faded like a shattered dream
And left behind an echoed scream
That haunts the chilling air.

To cross the Styx, there’s but one way;
Before the riverbank, thus, they
All stand in queues and meekly stay
Still till, afar, a single gray
Boat manifests and larger grows
As it comes nearer to the shore —
A wide, decrepit thing of yore
Steered by a withered wooden oar
Till to a stop it slows.

A figure in a tattered cloak
Stands like a towering, shriveled oak
Upon that boat, his beard like smoke
And eyes like flames. He’d harshly croak,
“Approach!” The specters move with haste,
But only those who can afford
To give him tribute may step toward
His vessel and be let aboard.
The Ferryman awaits.

He brings those souls across the cold
And ruthless currents of the old
And boundless waters that behold
The agonies of the dead untold,
Escorting them to Hades’ Realm.
Upon this ever treacherous stage,
Where grievous waves beneath him rage,
He’d, like a general, there engage
In battles at the helm.

He raises his oar like a spear
And fells the waves that fast appear;
His constant, furious roars strike fear
Unto the core of those who hear
Them. Few thus dare defy his might;
Though aged and frail in looks, he’s still
A son of Night Primeval. He’ll
Not hesitate to cruelly kill
All mutinous fools in sight.

And once a trip has been complete,
And on dark earth tread spectral feet,
The Ferryman shall thence repeat
His timeless duty, where he’ll greet
The remnants of those once alive.
Forever and forevermore,
He’ll come back to that Stygian shore
With his old boat and faithful oar
To fetch those that arrive.

Since all were made from soil and dust,
To soil and dust return, they must;
The lofty and the low, the just
And the unjust–all shall entrust
Their souls unto this shadowed land.
All worldly ties wrought in the past,
All fortune won and fame amassed
Shall be unto to oblivion cast …
Here comes The Ferryman.

[Ngo Binh Anh Khoa is a teacher of English in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In his free time, he enjoys daydreaming and writing speculative poetry for entertainment. His poems have appeared in Scifaikuest, Weirdbook, Star*Line, Spectral Realms, and other venues.]