Personal Ensign

We left Cape Disappointment on a Sunday
with a cobbled zeal, smelling that last night’s aspirations
from a rocky fire. The jagged shore fell away and the crew
began to sing. Their mouths opened and gulls came.
Mournful, and unexpected, since they were leaving what
was a known cursed place on that day of their Lord.
But they are young and stinking and prone to song. No storms now,
no rain. My ship had a name once but I’ve forgotten it.
Willfully, of course. It was something biblical, a woman with fins.
Tonight, though the damp ropes swell and teem,
our sails make a decent show, flapping leavened,
bone-colored, against curdled stars.

I cannot soothe the screaming child-hearts
of my men. Big fish rip like tired cloth in their oversized,
fatherless hands. I’ve come to hate the sea, its devouring salt.
The endless flat horizon of it under the fatty sky.
My flag’s crest has leeched out in punishing sun, beaten
to a silk by wind. I keep dreaming of the desert,
of shifting weals of sand. Of the rock and blessed heat.
Out there, just a glimpse of wetness would have value,
have possibility. The ring of a dream pond
up ahead. Of late I am chiefly concerned
with oases, and rumors of oases.

Linda Wojtowick grew up in Montana. She now lives and works in Portland, Oregon, where she indulges her cinematic obsessions without restraint. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Off the Coast, The Prompt, and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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