Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sestina: Into Shadow, by Carolyne Wright

(After the Wreck of the Costa Concordia, January 2012)

The dead wait in the ferry line with their one-way
tickets in their pockets. Their faces are shadows,
their memories thinning wisps. Their voices are cries
of cormorants whose black wings skim the waves
unfurling from the ferry's wake. The dead
have given away their sailings, they open their hands

to show us--see? How empty they are! Hands
no longer bracing them at railings on their way
across the Sound to the rain-lit islands of the dead
or back to the great city, busy with shadows
of gray gulls that hover on thermals above the waves.
Passengers crowd decks of the cruise ship docked nearby, their cries

lost in the descending scale of bald eagles' cries
as they circle the harbor. Passengers push back the hands
of the dead without knowing. They hear only waves
that slap the pilings, rumble of taxis on their way
to hotels, where passengers bed down with shadows
of themselves and turn their dreams over to the dead

who may be themselves in a future guise, receded
from the world they think they know--where Poe's raven cries
"Nevermore!" and no one leaves signs, only shadows
that glide across antique mirrors, their hands
opening doors in the reflected walls, the way
that spirits mirror only glass, and waves

re-enter the harbor's greater water. Wave
goodbye, passengers, to these spirits. Your own dead
still wait their turns, as you make your way
next evening back to your vessel, the steward's cry
of "All Aboard!" the ship's whistle stirring shadows
of harbor seals, who glide off, slap flipper hands

at the propellers' oily roil. Deck hands
uncoil hawsers from bollards, the slip slips over the waves'
horizon as night herons row their wings into shadow,
and figures on the pier fade into translucence--the dead
who echo their once-bodied selves in every cry
of farewell. The ferry, too, is on its way

at last, into shadow. The harbor's darkening waves
double back on themselves, and the cries of the dead
echo underwater--moving away, beyond the rescuers' hands.

First Prize in Poetry, Bacopa: A Literary Review (2013)

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