Learning to Sail at 57 on Father’s Day

Ellen Doré Watson

My tiller arm is achy. I have a hard time overriding
instinct. He says pick a landmark if the wind is confusing.
Having said that is a phrase I like. The water: froth
on navy-gray marble but churning liquid. I think
“l” sounds. He says the sea is forgiving. Or is it the wind?He says make smaller adjustments. I made pan-seared salmon
and couscous, which got cold as he took a call from the first-
born. Yesterday’s scripture was the Prodigal Son. I put on
the good brother’s robe of resentment. He labels each
leftover. The kitchen table is older than I am. Good littlebrother told me steering by land is just boating—to sail
you have to get the hang of the wind. It’s only too late
for something if you decide it is, and I do. We’re tacking
back now, which means the long way, with lots of angles.
Later, we’ll take a drive in the hybrid. A fox will dart outfrom lawn of luxury to seaside scrub—and as soon as
I think this in words, it will enlarge. Dad is our cranky
centerboard in his ratty rubber boots. The ocean’s new
cut-through threatens houses belonging to millionaires,
of which there are many. But so much there is that can’tbe owned. Little brother is almost taken out by a truck,
whether or not the Lord had anything to do with almost.
Or with the sun’s red rise the next morning. Our father
who art in Chatham releases the dinghy, shakes the sand
out of the lock, and leans into the long drag toward the tide line.

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Ellen Doré  Watson

Ellen Doré Watson is the author of five books of poems, including two from Alice James, We Live in Bodies and Ladder Music. Her most recent collection, Dogged Hearts, was published by Tupelo Press in 2010. She was named by Library Journal as one of “24 Poets for the 21st Century.” Among her other honors are a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant, a Rona Jaffe Writers Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship. She has translated a dozen books from the Portuguese, including The Alphabet in the Park and Ex Voto, poems of Brazilian Adélia Prado. (Author photo by Maia Erslev)

“Watson writes, ‘This is not strictly a story’—and she’s right, it isn’t. These poems are musical meditations on what cannot be narrated, but must be prayed or sung. . .”
Publishers Weekly

“Ellen Doré Watson gives us the gift of a healthy dose of life in pray me stay eager, a book that lifts language up and invites it to its own self-investigation. . . This is a taut and wise collection, bustling with inventiveness and celebration of wonder. The craft is impeccable, the inner vision revelatory, and the humor affirming, the kind of courage we so need.”
—Afaa Michael Weaver

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