by Renee Williams

Exposed oak beams, poised like a skeletal rib cage, protruding from the sand.
Precious cartilage from 1861, the shipwreck finding its final resting place on the shores of
Currituck beach in 1878.
85 perished on that cold January night, an unceasing gale capsizing the vessel,
taking it down and down and down into the deep thickets of the sea.
Then returning, disguised as a poltergeist.
The ocean pulls, disrupts and damages with the brutality of the nor’easter, taking sand back into
its icy clutches, and the long buried remains reappear.
What was once hidden is now not.
The Metropolis, once again above sea level, wood still beautiful,
illustrating the intricacy of the trunnels ,
craftsmanship still evident over a hundred years of time.
The amber whorls of the oak resemble fingertips, which I trace with my own,
wondering whose hands held onto this wood so many years ago.
Who were those lost souls at sea?
Did they cling to this hull or what’s left of it?
Oh, the movies make those final hours out to be so dramatic, bordering on the mawkish.
But it wasn’t like that, was it?
Large, roughly hewn hands, clinging to life on a vessel that was breaking apart by the moment.
To touch the wreckage is almost like caressing a coffin.
Who’s hands hung onto these rafters? Who’s hands were placed where mine have been?
Did they hold onto to each other as the relentless Atlantic pulled them away?
Did the penetrating cold of the waves numb all feeling?
In the end, was it a relief? A release?
Or did they keep fighting, keep battling, keep trying to hold on?
Letting the surf wash over my feet, clasping my ankles, tugging at me,
the warm sand lulling me into a comfort,
I am getting pulled deeper and deeper down.
For a moment, I want to pull up, to raise my foot, to escape that hypnotic draw into the unknown.
But sometimes I don’t want to.
Like a suicide, I want to give in … to the lure of the ocean, to the nothingness,
to the whatever it is that comes after.
Did they find that peace?
I was saved.
Mouth shot full of charcoal, awakened and finding myself in a horrible paisley gown,
I staggered down the corridor and tried to escape.
Those bright lights above my head were not what I wanted.
Apparently, it wasn’t my time.
I’m sorry that it was theirs … that their time ended that way.
In time, the sand will wash over the rafters, covering up the wreckage once more, often for years.
The secrets will be buried again and with it, any speculation about those who the ship took down.
Those lives are gone and so are their stories.
But another storm will unveil the planks again, witnessing to the world what the ship refuses to
let us forget.
Its timbers are too heavy and too stubborn to be moved by time or tide.

Renee Williams received a Master of Arts and Sciences in English from Ohio University in 1991 and retired from teaching at Hocking College in 2019. Since her retirement, she has been working on poetry and photography. Her poem, “Misguided,” was published on the New Verse News site; the Lothlorien Poetry Journal and the Literary Yard websites have posted her poems, as well. “Use Grief” can be seen in the latest edition of Common Threads by the Ohio Poetry Association. Alien Buddha Press has published her work in the November zine and Microdoses anthology. Read her previous poem in Deep South here.

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