The Ferry Keeper
by Judith Montgomery

becomes the only boat. Lays
her body flat, bellying black

water that sucks below the dock.
Her chest a prow, her face the fixed

gaze of a figurehead. Steadied
against drift, she shivers as her pale

ill family clambers in. Stem and
stern, they shift from pain to place,

wanting not to spill into oblivion.
Their crutches, tanks of oxygen,

prop stiff on her thwarts. Setting
match to wick and wax, her parents

light one candle to counter dark,
set it to burn at her hull of bone,

while bearded medics fumble loose
the rope. Cast off, her boarders brace

their feet against the staves of her
ribs, arrange an offering of coins,

glitter about the shadowed candle.
Unmoored, she swims toward

a horizon never compassed, bearing
her burdens on her back. The candle’s

hot wax sears the keel that is her
spine. Buoyed between fire and water,

she strokes toward what she must believe
to be the other shore.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 5.

Judith Montgomery is the author of Passion (2000 Oregon Book Award), Red Jess, and Pulse & Constellation. Her poems appear in Ars Medica, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Hunger Mountain, and elsewhere,

See all items about Judith Montgomery

Visit Judith Montgomery’s contributors page.

Leave a Reply