If you survive
when the ship capsizes,
if you avoid
the hulking masts and jagged iron
as they plummet into the sea
like panicked missiles,
if you reach the surface
and burst into air
amid flaming flotsam,

what then?

You swim
you bob
you float on your back
you pray for rain
you stay awake.

And if the currents are merciful
you meet an island to cling to
where soft shores
cradle your weary, seasick head
fresh coconut springs
revive your withered throat
and massive stones
ground your cracked, salty feet
and grant refuge
from the threat of the deep.

But even the bravest isle
is no haven
from planetary maelstrom.
Eventually it too erodes
and you find yourself
afloat again
courageously paddling
towards a hopeful horizon
to the next friendly island
til the cataclysm
destroys it

If your terrorized muscles
stop responding to faith
and answer only to survival,
what then?

What now?

Now that years are counted in decades
joints weakened by effort
skin furrowed by worry
eyesight blurry
and optimism spent
on too many gambles lost?

Perhaps the time has come
to mistrust the tides
and forgive depleted limbs.

Perhaps it’s time
to grow gills

to surrender
and breathe

© S. Rinderle, January 2023

2 thoughts on “Castaway

  1. Yes Susanna it is time to grow gills and learn to breathe under water!

    A very powerful poem … thanks for sharing it!

    I don’t remember the particular poem of yours which inspired me to write a poem about all the reasons for me to be joyful … I truly hope that you find some for yourself!

    And yet, I also appreciate the feelings you express of hopelesness.

    Yesterday I administered a makeup exam to two students … one who had missed the exam because her cat had to go to the vet in an emergency … the cat is OK now, and she scored an 84% on her makeup.

    The other had to miss the exam due to a situation at work which required her presence at the exam time. She scored 42% and has a D in the course so far. This is at least the third time for her in this course, which is the final course she needs to pass in order to graduate. I felt very sad after I graded her exam … she seems to be stuck in a situation similar to what you express in this poem … maybe she also needs to grow gills and breathe under water … ?

    What am I to do? Simply share my thoughts of love and compassion for her …
    and for you.

    I do love you, Susanna, for everything you are and everything you are not …
    especially for your spectacular ability to express your deepest feelings in exquisite poetry!

    I look forward to the opportunity to purchase your book of poems!

    Write on!

    Billy Brown

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