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

  • August 2021 Winners

    • First Place

      Time Portal At Fenchurch St. Station
      by Ieuan ap hywel
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place

      Still Life With Woodpecker
      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Hospice
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

  • July 2021 Winners

    • First Place

      The Three Fates
      by Laurie Byro
      The Waters

      Second Place

      If I Needed Someone
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      free spirit
      by Billy Howell-Sinnard
      The Writer's Block