A Dreamed Seascape by Mark J. Mitchell (The Missing Slate)

It starts out cool, like steel

behind your neck, tickling your hairline

even before you hear the sound.

Then the brass bell clangs, your eyes open.

Iron gray skies, no horizon. The sea

is slate, still. What passes for light


weighs heavy on you. Pray for a light

wind. Your body wants the swell that bounced the steel

buoy, rang the brass bell. The Sargasso Sea

should be bright, if still. Gray lines

casting sharp shadows on the open

sails. Dolphins should play and sound


bright blue, teasing you (you are sound

asleep. This is a dream of ancestral light.

You’re no sailor). But here, the open

ocean is flat, unforgiving as the steel

fixing your keel. You’ll never reach the line

that may mean land, an end of sea.


It’s not dark. Just too dull to see

shapes. You remember the bell, its sound

nearby. Some cable, some line

fixes the bellbuoy here. Running lights

reveal nothing. Perched on the bow, grasping steel

cables, cold and sharp, that cut open


palms. Nothing. No island, no ice. Just open

water, closed sky. This ugly sea

is endless (even knowing you sleep you steel

yourself for cold disaster). The sound

of the bell fades. Then the sun falls flat, light

comes right at you from the west. A line


of white, sharp wavelets. Lines

of wind on water. Your eyes wide, lungs locked open

as if it were solid, as if you could breathe light.

The sun slips low, painting an edge of the sea

orange, briefly, then it’s gone. Soft sounds

of water slapping the dull. a creak of steel


cable. No stars. No lines. Even the sea

has vanished. You want to open your eyes. The sound

of an alarm. You wake, grabbing all the light your eyes can steal.

-Mark J. Mitchell

Originally published in The Missing Slate;
edited by Jacob Silkstone

To be able to work with the sea in poetry is a masterful achievement. The most basic touchstones of our lives are the most difficult to write about. It’s not just because the sea is full of flotsam and linguistic resonance. It’s because it is fundamental to life, source, ending and beginning. The sea carries with it the genesis of all life, the rhythm of the earth, and the mysteries and negotiations of what we can and cannot face.  Mark J. Mitchell uses the sestina form with natural breaks between the flow of his words, with the incantatory, middle-space of dream informing the tide of his stanzas.  The poet shares that he is “very fond of the sestina form, especially for dream work, since the changes on words and meanings lead you down very dream-like paths.” In this beautiful, fluid form, the work explores fullness and emptiness, and the inheritance we receive when we open ourselves to what we sense and what is truly there.  Mark J.Mitchell has expanded his love of poetry into historical fiction about poets, with his novel Knight Prisoner exploring the relationship between poet François Villon and Sir Thomas Malory (available from Amazon). – RK

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://minotaursspotlight.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/rose_koch_133.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Rosemarie Koch earned her MFA in Poetry from Arcadia University in 2013 – the culmination of a lifelong dream. For her, poetry is an art form that crosses all forms, and is also a great source of joy – both reading it and writing it. She has recited Hopkins’ “Windhover” at many poetic and non-poetic gatherings, regards William Blake and Emily Dickinson as close personal friends, and finds poetry in everything she hears and sees. Her work with Minotaur’s Spotlight is an extension of her love of verse. [/author_info] [/author]