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4th place, Poetry in the Randall Albers Young Writers Award: “Nantucket” by Gabe Cadichon

Thursday, May 9, 2024


Smothered in January, all of the boats are leaving;
by and large, they have better places to be.
The whalers and fishermen are deserting the harbor,
leaving their rods and harpoons up on the wharf
as they voyage through the cold saltwater smog.

The boathouses are empty, reeking with silence,
under the weight of twenty years of snow—
twenty years of January drowning out the Right Whales
and driving the sailors and candlemakers off the cape,
knowing there’s better prospects than purgatory.

Taking up residence in the empty houses up the hill
and decorated with the stench of rotting spermaceti and fish,
the permafrost clutching the village
has thrown all the men into their boats and pushed them out to sea,
and I can see it’s taken anchorage here.

The horns across the water
remind me of why I am staying.
My compass is broken
and I have no sense of direction:
too weak-willed to go rowing,
too apprehensive to let the winds of winter cast me off.

Like a whale in the flurry, skewered on harpoons pulling back,
my thrashing to get away slowing as the whalers circle in;
a carcass turning over in a pool of blood and vomit,
fated to succumb to the prospect of dying here,

as they fasten me onto their whaleship
and drag me back to the unrelinquishing shore.

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