Close-Hauled

by Brenda Levy Tate
PenShells
First Place, June 2016
Judged by Joan Colby


” … heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them.”
~ Herman Melville

I cross these tides to you – my beautiful
hearse that carries the corpse of desire
on your spine. We plow this sea together,
as the wake’s ribbon trails behind us.
Your harpoon-rope uncoils like a vine.

Below in the secret green, another tale
begins – not yours, nor mine either,
but the wild carol of a sleepless god
in his kelp nest, now risen to ask who
dares break faith with him.

I cannot separate myself from your pale
back, your bone burden. I ride you
groaning through the wet darkness.
Whatever lies we gave each other
in our youth, the salt has eaten them.

There is only a crazy boatman now,
sworn to own us both – captain of souls
who carries no one without consent.
Refuse him, love. Dive deep and take
me under too. Accept no sunless

river or frail death-vessel. We will claim
the whole ocean, circle this waterborn ball
a hundred thousand years.


This poem utilizes a haunting and effective metaphor that energizes the poem seamlessly to an evocative conclusion. Lines like “the wild carol of a sleeping god/in his kelp nest” are both visual and pertinent. --Joan Colby

  • December 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Tires
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Babilu

      Second Place

      Scouring Pots While the World Ends
      by Elizabeth Koopman
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Poetry in the Cultural Revolution
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Waters

  • November 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Radium Girls
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place

      The Unreliable Narrator
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Birds 2
      by JJ Williamson
      Babilu

      Honorable Mention

      Too Late
      by Billy Howell-Sinnard
      The Waters