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VALEDICTION: NAVIGATOR | PORTAGE | Justin Sider

VALEDICTION: NAVIGATOR

Intricate ship, the body breaks
on any Atlantic, waves collapsing
back into themselves, & the sea
hisses, “Build nothing you would not
tear down again.” Hanno, I am
rebuilding at sea, plank by plank,
pulling up the hull & patching it.
Clouds form, disperse.  The boards
shrink & groan.  I measure each plank,
set the lap & slick the seam with tar.
There is your sadly missing heart.
The dawn’s bloodshot eye watches
& winks luridly, & leaving is all
of my authority, letting scene after scene
refresh itself in my absence, watchers
of the place I might have been.
Hanno, when alien voices sing you
into the outer sea, remember me: I
did not set out from my port.

PORTAGE

I got out & dragged my canoe to the sand.  The paddle rattling
anxiously inside.  Barefoot over oak roots to the next stretch
of navigable water, after the rocks & foam
blossoming at the bottom of the falls.  I would spare you
the details between river & river.  How the yoke
never fits the shoulder.  Blundering against pine trunks.
The shudder of the fiberglass body, quivering like a bell.
Or the sweep of the needles over the wide bottom, the sound
they make.  Not a sweeping really.  Sharp, the dry
lower branches snapping. But it is strange that, after all
this time, I should still be walking with no river in sight.
Even the sound has gone, & the coppery smell of the riverbank.

Justin Sider’s poetry has appeared in Southwest Review, Mississippi Review, Indiana Review, Locuspoint, and other journals.  He lives in New Haven, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Yale University.

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