In this piece, I was inspired by Laura Chalar’s “Over dark water – August 1820: The Shelleys move to Bagni di Pisa” and a line within that read “standing at the stern in dappled light.”
Standing at the stern in dappled light,
a shield slung across his back, heavy with iron
and wood and muddy flaking paint made from
mulberries and water and beetle shells,
sweat beads along his brow and the nape of his neck,
the sun-bleached hairs curl and tangle into knots.
Amber waves roll beneath a darkening cornflower sky
littered by black-bottomed clouds laden with rain.
A low rumble echoes across the golden bay and
his hand drops to the roughly wrapped hilt of a sword,
useless but steadying as the storm creeps overhead.
Lightning cleaves the air, sharp and hot.
Each quick forked tongue a brilliant pop of white and silver,
shot with blue and the smell of copper.
A streak of light, yellow and dim, flickers steadily near the horizon
between the sheets of cold rain now sliding under his collar, soaking
the drawstring tie of his patchwork cloak.
Gusting winds deliver a familiar and beckoning voice and he sighs, the end
of his journey pulsing ahead in time with his own ragged heartbeat.
One, two, three… the light blinks and stays, then
One, two, three… again.
He shrugs off his battle-worn gear and jumps off the starboard side, feetfirst
into the rain-plastered grass of the abandoned lot.
“Momma’s flashing the porchlight,” he shouts as he runs, the neighborhood crew groaning
as their friend is called home.
The great pile of fallen trees and forgotten bricks, somedays a ship and others
a castle or a cave or a coliseum,
unfurls its sails as he disappears behind the front door.
“Onward, sailors!” shouts its new captain.