Winslow Homer, Northeaster, 1895 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)


Shipwrecked, Dreaming

I’ve stood in the room where he slept,
windows facing the race to the sea. Thoreau
would’ve taken the dimensions at a glance.
But the gruff sound of the interior shutter

hauled across the window’s frame,
the heave of painted wood on wood
and rattling glass. What happened to sound
after that? What was the wind, what

was sea? The Atlantic gust and the rut\
of surf breaking in the hollow.
Where was it they’d walked that day,
the look of the heath, wind-blown, combed.

The rising pitch on the way to the sea
shifting by night in their dreams.
The wind raking tracks like a lion’s paw,
churning loose a divot of sand, a devil’s

whirligig spinning on the spine of Newcomb’s
bluff. Ships intimate with the dark—
riding crest to trough. Somewhere a sailor
staring at his compass, another in the rigging

watching the pulse of light from Highland’s
beam while inside the small room, Thoreau
and Channing slept with waves and wind—
those wreckers of men—rattling the windows,

making bones out of ships and timbers from whales.


In the Windy Room

Curtains buckle and fly. The sky is
marbled, ragged scraps of debris

tumble for the sea. God has gone off
somewhere—it’s too much this—

the current of your breath
ebbs, everyone’s in bed with you.

Beyond the glass, a host
of warblers in swaying trees, a rest

before departure: sotto voce, the novices
at the Dominican priory. The call

of voices singing aisle to aisle.
They asked us to carry the gifts

that Christmas. Here in the windy room
a minister is speaking about light—

choosing light, no talk of Christ.
Already the cold waves bloom

and fall, there, where sea longs
to blur with sky, a sharp and beautiful blue.

You’re still here, steadfast, trying,
borne like a leaf on the flood of our song.

Catherine Staples is the author of The Rattling Window and Never a Note Forfeit. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Yale Review, Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, the Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Third Coast, the Gettysburg Review, and others. She teaches in the Honors and English programs at Villanova University.

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Published in the March 22, 2019 issue: View Contents
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