All night, against a contrary wind, we rowed east.
Hungry, tired, and torn from the safe familiarity
of home, we shivered. Waves broke over the bow, cold
in the night chill, spray dampening
my mother's gingham dress, salt crystalizing
on windblown strands of her hair
and reflecting strange pale light from her eyelashes
and the creases of her neck. Blisters grew on our hands,
swelled, turned from clear to red, tore open.
Blood stained the handles of the weather-beaten oars.
They grew steadily blacker and slicker in the faint light
from the waning moon. As our strength
gradually failed, we at first stood still
in the wind and then moved backwards,
steadily losing that distance we'd fought
so hard to gain. The sky changed
from black to indigo, from indigo to pewter,
and one by one, the stars winked out.
A miraculous shadow grew on the horizon,
the source of a second wind, of hope,
a chance for life that had seemed to ebb
away into the night. The first hint of dawn swelled
into flames, the entire beach burned with lemon light.
We pulled and pulled with new strength,
our arms taut and strong. As land approached,
we sang hymns of joy and glory.
When the bow struck gold, my mother stood,
bent her head to step into all that light. Her entire
exhausted body quivered like a prayer to the rocking earth,
and grew nearly transparent with love.
Mary Stebbins Taitt
This poem and the artwork were previously published in Call and Response, Poets and Artists in Dialogue, 2017 by the Grosse Pointe Congregational Church Arts Ministry.
Mary Stebbins Taitt has an MFA in writing in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts, was nominated for a pushcart for her poem, "A Jungle of Light," and climbed the highest peaks in the Adirondacks barefooted.
The Ekphrastic Review
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