Battleship

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.

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