The Boat
    Judith McCune Kunst
Local ferry
drowned off the coast:
at least 300 people dead.
Commuters to the capital from the island:
none of the passengers knew how to swim.

Write the poem
like you're building a boat:
hollowed, planked together, pitched with tar.

100 yards from shore,
passengers rushed the ship's bow,
overwhelming the men paid to carry them
on their shoulders to the beach.

Balance the hull and raise the mast.
Let the mainsail curve to the wind.
Go beautiful and swift my boat.

A woman set off the stampede
when her infant started choking.
The mother tried to push to the front
but the others refused
to let her through.

Steer straight
into the gale-don't let the rigging
slack-lean hard against the boom-

Three times the Ministry of Transport
has built a dock for the ferry-
each time hacked up and burned by the carriers,
whose income depends
on the off-shore landings.

The U.S. Ambassador cites the tragedy
as another example of the country's
inability to govern itself.

You are not strong enough
to carry the dead.
My boat my perfect boat you are too late.

Judith McCune Kunst's poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Mars Hill Review, The Other Side, and other journals. She lives in Savannah, Georgia with her husband and young son.



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