Jeanne Clark


Six bells. I wake. Inches from my ear
a strand of rising bubbles squeals outside
the hull. Far under me the leaded keel
is settling into muck. I knew, when anchor-
ing at dusk, the dropping tide would touch
it down, decided then to let this be.

It can't sink far, won't heel more than a few
degrees unless I have misfigured; but,
I lie oppressed with fear of never squirm-
ing loose, of dying in the womb of an elegant
mistress drowned in her bath. I did not think
I would mind so much this gentle bottoming out.

Barefoot, scared, I stumble topside, peer-
ing into shoal. Empty mussel shells,
too eyelike, pock the shallows. Shore lies near-
er. And the small oval inlet's claustral horizon
towers as high as the masthead lantern aglow
in the starboard shroud. Moonset. Seven bells.

Beneath the jamming keel a colony
of clams lies smothered. I feel guilty, a child--
one who has lied to its mother. God. I've sinned.
My sloop's not mistress; it is mother--killed.
Becalmed is not so grim as this. I weep
for endings everywhere, and crawl below.

I loathe this helplessness, this dread. The cab-
in is a tomb; rot seems to stink in ev-
'ry plank. I wait. The tide is on the turn.
A tranquil resurrection eddies 'round
me, shims the bias, lifts the muddied keel-
son, jacks it free. Eight bells. I am absolved.

Jeanne Clark
Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

Photo by Ken Quiet Hawk
JEANNE CLARK, 77, Wolfeboro, is a retired attorney. Her first book, The Story of Ellacoya, a 6600-line, 300-stanza epic poem in unrhymed anapestic pentameter is slated for Fall 2009 publication by Beech River Books, Center Ossipee, New Hampshire. Jeanne's astrological sun sign is Capricorn.