When All Hands Were Called to Make Sail

By Rachel Zucker b. 1971 Rachel Zucker

for Spalding Gray

The West and North winds both lover us, wanting, bitter,
to bring us in close in the small hold.

Tongues loll and laze, while the flap
and snapping above: crazy wanderlust.

The basin must cradle, keep her passengers,
though the hero abandoned the ferry for the real sea.

Is nothing worthy?

        Wallet on bench. Wallet at home. Wallet at rest.

The child, even his cries, must the ship balance,
makes me wild to right this unhumanly keeling.

I have six arms, am the dismembered figurehead,
ballast, breasts covered in blue scales.

I am at rudder, at bow, at mast, at rigging,
at deck, at halyard, at stern, when the hold

explodes with screaming.

One boy has stolen the other’s marble. The boat shifts, tilts.
A wallet washes up against us.

Is this what you meant when you said a family steadied you?

Is this what they see when they see me and my six handless arms,
shining torso and cuspid humor?

The figurehead has no need for eyelids, must
on-guard, vigil, dry eyed.

But she dreams. Dreams.

The sail, its fine apparel, its linen long-shadow: a tiny hand
opening, budlike

Rachel Zucker, “When All Hands Were Called to Make Sail” from Museum of Accidents. Copyright © 2009 by Rachel Zucker. Reprinted by permission of Wave Books.

Source: Museum of Accidents (Wave Books, 2009)

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Poet Rachel Zucker b. 1971

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Parenthood, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

 Rachel  Zucker


Poet and educator Rachel Zucker was born in New York and grew up in Greenwich Village, the daughter of novelist Benjamin Zucker and storyteller Diane Wolkstein. She earned her BA at Yale University and her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Zucker’s expansive yet lyrical poems interrogate and deftly turn on intersections of the domestic and global. In a review of Museum of Accidents (2009), Boston Review critic Stephen Burt . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Parenthood, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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