Survivor, Wreck of the Jason

Winslow Homer, The Gulf Stream (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

The iron schooner broke clean in two...and the waves
rushed over her stern which sank like lead into the sand.

Truro, December 5, 1893

 

It’s little he knew or thought
he knew, there in the sand
stumbling, hardly upright,
the sea still in him, her wrack
and swell. On all fours,
recollecting the din in
the rigging: the audible
crack as the keel split.
Heart astonished
by its permeable borders,
the livingness beyond air.
The others gone under.
They hadn’t his luck.
Was it the bale of jute
or the sleek bob of a seal’s
head that righted his way?
Surely, some supernal
rhythm fixed his course
He washed up on shingle,
frozen, bleary with sleet.
White as clouds, the lost souls flew.

For weeks he heard it, a terrible
slatting of sails on spars—
Nothing stopped it, only
the rhythm of hooves,
the Truro milk horse, tin-shake
of harness as he stepped out
into the yard and the mare
lowered her craggy head.
He smoothed the length
of her ears, forefinger to thumb,
and there, at his chest, the blow
of her breath, familiar, warm.

Published in the November 9, 2018 issue: 
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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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