–Winter, Wellfleet, 2008

Sweet carcass of an ark, the past’s oaken belly—
what the sands had buried a storm uncovered
high on Newcomb Hollow beach; a hull,
round wooden pegs, tool marks that tell
its serious age, ribs like the bony cage
of a Great White whale, washed up
on the shoals a decade after the Civil War, a schooner,
archaeologists say, converted to a barge—
they think she carried coal up the Atlantic coast
from an impoverished postwar South,
coal that washed ashore on the outer Cape
to the hardscrabble townspeoples’ shivering relief.
In a few weeks, they’re sure the tides will resettle her,
she’ll be washed back out to sea or she’ll merge again,
fill with the coarse sands shifting beneath your feet.
Homely, heavy, sea-scoured, why should she seem
a venerable thing, spiritual, why should you long
to touch her, to stretch out under the March sun
in the long smooth silvery frame of a cradle
or curl like an orphaned animal on the hand-cut planks
and caress the marks, the trunnels, with your mittened paws?
Is it that she hints much yet tells little of the souls lost
with her, the mystery of survival,  the depths she’s travelled?
Has she heard the music on the ocean floor, instrumentation
of Mantis Shrimp, the bong bong of Humming Fish?
Why does the day, all blues and greys, feel transcendental?
She’s a remnant, a being almost completely effaced, yet to you
still resonant—can anything this gone be consecrated? Experts
have examined the braille of her hull, weighed the evidence,
and they declare, It’s another secret the ocean burped up,
nothing but a blip, a brief reappearance, once rowdy,
rough with purpose, now not even a container, holding
nothing, revealing nothing....But aren’t you also a singular secret
Nature burped up, hurled flailing into the air from the start,
hungry for light, holding onto whatever buoys you,
alive, kicking, even when you know you’re going down?
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