Twelve-year-old thumbs trace the black hull,
The boat’s bolts as bronze as his lowered chin,
A pale beluga figurine burdening his pocket,
While he imagines manacles under masts.
He recalls the saleslady with a shale-hard tone,
Asking where his posse was as he held the whale,
Before he joined the Junior Scholars on the Amistad,
Where the flying sails beat the sky in frustration.
What an anchor to carry past Mystic’s Liberty Pole.
Boys with clean backsides who know stings without whips,
Covet sea souvenirs but not constant security guard glances,
The maritime trip marred by modern murmurings and malice.
Then he remembers the Mende, not weak when ill winds blew,
But bold above brackish water and damp wood,
Their heels steady on a Spanish schooner they secured,
Charting a path that would earn him his diploma in due time.
Monique Hayes received her MFA from the University of Maryland College Park. Her work has appeared in Furious Gravity, Literary Mama, Revise the Psalm, Brio, Street Sheet, among others. She was recently shortlisted for the Historical Writers Association’s Dorothy Dunnett Story Award.
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