Sea Change

Ralph Sneeden

Wind Indicators

Six-inch lengths of tape
I cut from an old cassette
and knotted to the stays beside
the mast of this twelve foot

leaking boat. I didn't care
to know the genre before I ripped
the entrails squealing from their hubs:
something dated, indecipherable

ballpoint on the labels. Another phase
of life that's best forgotten,
put to better use. How primitive
the plastic box, moving parts:

a ribbon read by magnet, fed
like grain across a millstone's molars.
You count on them to translate where
the wind is from, where it wants

to go. How certain I was
that my face or the confessions of traitorous
flags and trees on shore would be
enough. August, they're almost invisible,

the interrupted clips of sound
scoured by sun, ceaseless whipping -
frayed glimmers if the light
is right. Though for months, brown

opaqueness painted on the tape
was music I could see, a couple
of beats, fragment of a bar, half
a riff writhing in the air that filled

the sail and blew me from the mooring.

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Ralph Sneeden is the author of Evidence of the Journey (Harmon Blunt Publishers, 2007). The title poem of that poetry collection received the Friends of Literature prize from Poetry magazine and the Poetry Foundation. His work has also appeared in journals such as The Kenyon Review, New England Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, Poetry, and Slate. He teaches in Exeter, NH, recently completed a residency at The MacDowell Colony, and last winter was the Bergeron Writing Fellow at the American School in London.