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Among the Unawake poems from the Great Plains by Rodney Nelson

G o o d   H o p e

Every one in seven years I make land in Table
Bay and know that I am meeting Dora again who will
haven me in her hold this time, not damn and turn me back
to the deck of my command, my never rounding of the
cape, I can tell how long ago it was that I did worse
than flout her, I killed the love we had, denied it then, to
writhe and clinch with a young fishwife, because today will mark
my seventh return to squinch in the daylight of the town
until I hear Dora’s greeting, we thought you were dead, and
move toward it, until I wake at the cottage to the
same valediction, we’ll see you in a week, watch her put
on a shawl and leave, forty-nine years, will be a seventh
waiting to commit once more to the dinghy, to assault
on a cape of which I descry the gleamy headland but
that is only storm and midnight when I approach, surfeit
of port and other woman let me not wait the first week,
made me want away, so I put out in the evening
to round the cape and a wind that no one had foretold of
set me onto the rocks, I had ship remaining to try
again, over and ever, every one in seven
years a remit it seemed, making land and hearing Dora,
we thought you were dead we know you went down, telling the one
I loved to pardon and take me in now so that I would
not have to go back to my damned command, in the night a
promise, in the valediction none at all, maybe I
did go down I have thought as I row or am rowed to
anchorage, the mirror has nothing in it, of my crew
I would recognize not any a man jack if I saw
him, Dora is unchanged, a wealth of dark-gold hair in wind
when I am landward and she is coming to the jetty
that I want to reach, hear the call again even though I
have to redivine the meaning in it, the town has not
changed either, should have by now the seventh septennary,
and why has nobody joined her, everyone has to have marked
me lying off, putting to, not a death ship yet, but the
walks are vacant in the din of light, I was drunk when I
weighed anchor that first evening and if I spat at the
devil would not know, we’ll see you in a week, it might have
been her own curse of the moment on me she withdrew in
worser pain when I went down which left me tided to the
cape even so but with a chance every seventh year
to make land in Table Bay, today the morning of the
seventh seventh year I am in the dinghy, my glass on
the path she will take to meet whatever I am, but I
am not rowed or rowing on, you have forgiven whom most
can’t be my love the wind that I went into was meant to
right the account you should have let me drown with the rest oh
we’ll not see you in even a week, I try to call this
to my Dora, the week has ended and maybe I can
heave a last anchor up and put
about, the headland astern, make
seaway toward the haven of
all dead men and true in the west


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