Masefield in Purgatory
Christopher Howell

Falls and stays flemished,
lifts and braces squared,
we came in on the neap
under a single scrap of sail.
How long had we been out
and where, the wharfinger
did not ask.  He could see
the answer far out behind us,
anyway, following on a shadow
or a piece of ancient spar
looking for home.

Contentment walked away
up hill from the sea and left us
bumping gently at the darkening
pier.  If we announced ourselves,
who left us or appeared?
If we slept, what women touched
or woke
our beaten contemplations?
Beautiful beautiful return, sky-sized,
angelic and looking the other way,
kept its own council.  Fair wind
was beside the point.

Still, as night came on, we laid
our offering of shells and string
on the grey planks, and prayed
that death relent and bless us,
who had come so far.
And the stars, as always, lit
their little fires in that dark
above the crisp sweet air.

Originally appeared in Plume

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