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17: Sebastian Merrill

Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language.

To My Ghost :: Float

by Sebastian Merrill

Bound by rocky headlands,
this northern coast is hard
and sharp: few beaches
greet the pounding surf.
I paddle through an ocean
studded with islands,
each a small world in itself:
Birch Island frames Little Harbor,
the sheltered waters home to herons,
cormorants, and eiders;
Hay Island holds two hand-hewn
houses; ospreys nest on the tip
of Crow Island. I gentle my speed
through the Thread of Life, watch
the spring-born seal pups swim
fearlessly alongside their cautious
mothers. After paddling through the Thread,
I land on Thrumcap Island’s rare beach.
At high tide, the water shines
turquoise above the creamy sand,
a mix of stone and crushed shells:
oysters, whelk, blue mussels,
snails, and clams. I carry my boat
high above the reaching waves,
tear off my shirt, dive
into the relentless sea.

Buoyed by the salt water,
I float weightless and free
until I no longer feel
the cold. I emerge goose
pimpled, lie on the sand
to soak in the sun. As I drift
toward sleep, a woman paddles
onto the beach. I recognize
her face, even though we
haven’t seen her for ten years
at least. You used to play
kick-the-can with her
and the other island girls.
She doesn’t know me
at first, and nervous, shy,
I don’t offer a greeting.
Until, with a flicker, she sees
you within me. Is it you? she asks.
I stand up fast, nod, cross
my arms over my scarred,
flat chest. It’s confusing,
introducing myself
to someone you knew.
But she’s friendly enough,
so we stand in the surf
and watch the gulls wheel
over the churning waves.

Here in this one place
both you and I have lived,
you luster, flash
I branch away from you
then back then
Tell me
am I the fig
and you the wasp?
Am I sound and you Echo?
Am I the pomegranate
and you
the seed?

Copyright © 2023 by Sebastian Merrill. This poem was originally published in GHOST :: SEEDS (2023).

About the Author

Sebastian Merrill
The poet Sebastian Merrill (USA), New York, New York, January 24, 2023. Photographer © Beowulf Sheehan

Sebastian Merrill’s debut collection GHOST :: SEEDS was selected by Kimiko Hahn as the winner of the 2022 X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, published by Texas Review Press in November 2023. A winner of the 2024 Stonewall Honor Book – Barbara Gittings Literature Award from the American Library Association, GHOST :: SEEDS was also selected by Ellen Doré Watson as the winner of the 2022 Levis Prize for Poetry from Friends of Writers. Sebastian’s poetry has appeared in The Common, Four Way Review, Diode Poetry Journal, wildness, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College and a BA from Wellesley College.

Queer Poem a Day graphic

Queer Poem a Day

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and professor Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for this fourth year of our series is from the second movement of the “Geistinger Sonata,” Piano Sonata No. 2 in C Sharp Minor by Ethel Smyth, performed by pianist Daniel Baer. Queer Poem-a-Day is supported by generous donations from the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library and the Deerfield Fine Arts Commission.

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