Sailing Away

Jacqueline Shortell-McSweeney

Under morning's glowering sky,
John bends to his visions, washes sails, and stitches,
fights needle through stiff canvas;
Drops woman's thimble and pricks finger
— Blood for the sails!
Seaman's precision takes old cotton
seam by seam from worn planks and works with gentle hand,
setting sturdy cloth in place,
line by line, dream by dream.
Sailor's eyes to the horizon,
he caulks hull's fearless wood in final seal — with a love one gives to family.
In the church light of the old barn
the unfrocked mariner performs sea rituals.
Mast and rudder sanded to fresh wood.
Male sweat mixes turpentine and varnish.
Daughters and son run up and down ladders
to offer swipes of paint for pride of the Ship.
Far offshore, Neptune and Nereids wait
as children share blue water prayers with their Odysseus,
a moment,
in this slanting shed.
Then the Siren sings.

Tied to the mast of her sweet-sounding lust,
John is mad for Javea, Cefalu, and Patmos.
He rolls charts,
lays in the stores and storm gear.
He checks the lines, knots, and splices,
fills the running lights with kerosene,
rubs brass lamps till the stars shine.
His wintered dreams ready to sail.

This night,
Circe will lead him from the confines of the bay,
This night,
    the moon will weigh anchor.
This night,
Memory will leave quotidian shore.
But, oh the wide-beamed ship, trapped
between tall rock of Scylla and whirlpooling Charybdis,
Blameless children against raging Penelope,
This night,
You never leave the cat-tailed bay for the sea.
The wood boat sits in my backyard,
    cutting through choke weed.
The hull rots to the land,
a playground for his grandchildren.
And this, sorrow's song to my father,
who would not sail from us.

Jacqueline Shortell-McSweeney

Jacqueline Shortell-McSweeney writes only when inspired, or when her Muse, Noreen, stands over her with a metaphorical rolling pin. At other times, she has worked as a producer for Women Make Movies, a video artist at Henry St., Settlement, first union woman grip on the East Coast, and then, as a lawyer, in hopes she could sue some of those responsible for her Me-Too moments in the union. Finally, as an attorney for Women's Venture Fund, Ms. Shortell-McSweeney worked with women entrepreneurs. Now retired to her writing desk, her detective story, DR. ALTMAN AND THE CONCUBINES, will be published in late Spring. Then, The Muse wants to see her other work, EVERGLAAZED, completed.

Issue 28
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