The Ferry

By NATHAN MCCLAIN

I still had a lover. Maybe let’s start there.
I hitched a ride to Boston, where I missed

the ferry by what seemed like minutes. But time
can work that way in the mind. I was in love

or wanted to be in love and there was distance
everywhere is maybe a better way to put it,

though what exactly was it, I hadn’t given it
a designation. I looked for the boat, it wasn’t there:

only the dock, a few seagulls, a blue distance.
If I was supposed to wave goodbye, I missed

my chance, though what did I care, so in love
with solitude, at least I was at the time.

It seemed easy, being lonely, watching time
lapse, that boat long dispatched, I’d missed it

yet there I was waving, like a fool in love
perhaps, at what? I couldn’t tell. I wasn’t there

when the ferry left, remember, I missed
it, or they went on without me. The distance

made it hard to see clearly where distance
ended, or if it did. Or I didn’t make it in time

to see, maybe time was against me. I missed
the ferry, I had no money. The ferryman said It 

was fine and smiled at me. Smiled. There
was the shore and me wanting to be in love

though I wasn’t. I carried what I could. Love?
I didn’t have room for it. In the distance,

I swore my solitude waved. I missed it where
I was headed, sure, but there was hardly time

for that. The boat was early. I boarded it
and stood on the stern. Part of me was missing,

but there had to be a cost. That part I missed—
my mind a rough sea I might have loved

watching lap were I not so inside it—
my mind the fish, too, the shore distant

as the voice I thought I heard in it, as time
itself. The ferry was late. I was there

hoping I missed it. I didn’t trust the distance,
lovely as it seemed. I didn’t trust time

nor where it carried me. I knew what was there.

 

Nathan McClain is the author of Scale; a recipient of fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, The Frost Place, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference; and a graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. His poetry and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Poem-a-Day, The Baffler, upstreet, and West Branch Wired. He teaches at Hampshire College.

[Purchase Issue 18 here.]

The Ferry

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