What is metaled, what is stretched taut enough?

What’s said –an albatross “happens”– back-lit by white and golden flurries of clouds.

Can’t you see it soaring above the ship?
A sentence of air, lisping
between miles of wire and rope and sails.

O My World she says. To mean that floating island of steel.
To mean the damn bird that circles so often she’s trapped in its orbit.
To mean that when the sea is not too loud she can hear his whispers
from the adjacent wooden bunk—

What fate did they shoot out of the sky to hang in imagined rooms?

On the deck, the dead bird, listless, held up by Nakata, becomes almost human.

A whalebone corset: waist small enough to
fit between two circled hands. On nights when
stars pressed down and pinned their distance
Charmian wound those threaded bones around her own waist.

Her mother’s manuscripts, written in
delicate ink, yellowing leaves of the Cottonwoods
that come fall raged red from the crags
of the Wasatch Mountains.

The tiny oval photo: her mother
posed in a bonnet, midnight curls falling
over her body as if to erase.

The oval photograph hangs where no one
can see it. The manuscripts sealed in vaults
Only scholars wearing white cotton gloves
can read them. The corset, wrapped in white tissue paper,
is stored in the dark mouth of Charmian’s wooden dresser.

My mother has only been gone a few months
so I carry her artifacts in my purse.
A foldable hoof pick. A tiny wooden horse.
The gold ring I once bought her on a trip to Stockholm:
replica of one recovered from King Vasa’s
enormous wooden ship found sunk, completely intact.
The weight of wood soaked and preserved by the clear harbor water.

After years of restoration, they dredged it up.
But, the power and surge, was gone.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle