Rappahannock Review | Jeremy Allan Hawkins
1959
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Jeremy Allan Hawkins

The Salvers

when the sky is steel wool but the sea sits flat & dull as a skillet,
two men are likely to share their secrets

while standing at the stern, looking for a black burl
on the horizon, because this is the time,

before the ship is listing like a gull in the wind,
to recite their devotions to the ones

who did all of this before & gave these same litanies,
words offered against summer storms & worse—

they steer wide & clear of any abandoned raft,
they know a tree found floating with its roots spells rain,

they speak nothing of family, to tempt the sea
no further, & they only dive when they cannot be sure what they’ll find,

because any wreck that glitters is one that should be left to lie,
along with all the other lures glinting down below—

these are left to the salvers, who boat with cranes,
ready to haul up any hull fairly lost, & sell it

as something saved, ready to dive after any vague shimmering,
to swim down among the dead,

for when they look at the carcass of a ship, iron torn like tissue,
they don’t see a tithe but rather parts to strip & cargo to claim,

when they spot a gleam in the dark scores that carve
out a trench, they see a treasure waiting to be found,

not the spirits of young girls thrown into the waves
as an offering for the fish that fattened a village—

the salvers who think that no fortune is ever truly lost,
who dream that nothing can be sunk, not forever,

who call their women while the sky heaves & the sea is slate—
one more haul, they say, there’s something left to take.

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