Sea Change

Jill McDonough

What Washed Ashore

Hello, there's a ship in the front yard.
--Mooncussers of Cape Cod by Henry C. Kittredge, Boston, 1937

The Italian captain's body: frozen, one
year dead. The name "Orissa." Teakwood bars,
mahogany racks. The Whydah's gold doubloons.
Great rolls of wrapping paper on iron spools.
A bushel basket of piano keys.
Wool greatcoats, blankets. Lead wheels. Cases of beer.
Scotch. Rye. Wooden crates of chocolate. Gravestones.
An organ. Coffee. Bales of rags, a box
of herring. Lath and Lumber. Rubber boots.

Champagne. Seeds. Pear and plum trees, nicely tied
and labeled. Drowned cutthroats. Pool cues, still true.
Wide sheets of copper. An iron safe on its back,
greenbacks protruding from the crack in its closed
door. Compass, binnacle, bell. The stores: tea, five
pound hams, condensed milk. A signal flag, half
a dozen cabin doors. A case of black
shoe leather, taps. One hundred twenty-two
barrels of flour, thirty-six damnified.
Sandy jute. Fine stoneware, strong slitwork timber.
Swollen firkins of wet bread. Map, writings, two
punch bowls and glasses. Boxes of bullets and flints.
A compass and pump. A tub of pork, two casks
of pickled fish. Moses boat. Bags of salt.
Molasses, cases of tea. An oaken chest.

Inside the chest:

nine linen shirts. Five
caps, a suit
of thin clothes, two undershirts, two
old coats, eight pairs
stockings, nine pairs breeches, three

sheets, a tablecloth, a towel.

A handkerchief, five wigs.
A sail, a cotton blanket.

Quadrant. Sword. Cane. Knife.

A gimlet.
Hammer, handmill, razors, locks.
A saw.

Three china plates,
a doctor's kit, some empty vials.
An old book of sea law
and some paper.

.........................................................................................................

Jill McDonough's poems have appeared in The Threepenny Review, The New Republic, and Slate. The recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the Fine Arts Work Center, Stanford's Stegner Program and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, she has taught incarcerated college students through Boston University since 1999. Her first book of poems, Habeas Corpus, is fifty sonnets about executions in American history.