by Ann McNeal


How it feels not to be believed.
In the dream, they are having a party
or doing their work on the boat,
while I am swimming in circles,
hoping someone will notice.
I don’t know where to start.
This is a story that needs
to be told.

The boat when I was young was on
a running line, drifting out with river’s tide.
I hauled it in hand over hand,
first the harsh threads of dry hemp
then seaweed-dripping rope I threw in loops.
Water ran down gray-painted wood
to wake up fishy smells in the bottom.
I don’t know why sadness attacks me now;
I can hardly keep my eyes
open for sorrow.

The ladder is slick and strong. I could almost
get up but I need a hand at the top.
Where is the one who will listen?

I slid the oars clattering into the open shell,
stepped on board, shoved off into the current
judging the tide before taking off
all my pride in doing it on my own.
Now I dream of blue seas
where I call out for help.

-This poem was a finalist in the contest Writing the River and will be forthcoming in the volume with that title (Word Street Press, Pittsfield MA).