The Second Death

imagine a warship—heavy with cannons, overgrown
with gold. imagine its heavy body, its mossy stomach—

dipping in and out of the water like a swan.
imagine the first voyage—the dock a confetti

of color. a girl blows a kiss—her breath
mixing with the spray. remember how mermaids wink

from the ship’s prow, how sea monsters snarl from the bulwark.
this—and a fracture point, a top heavy curl into the deep,

a nautical mile of fright and gulp and salt
salt salt. the metal weeps in the bay—think

sunk. the warship is a treasure of bones, of muskets drowned—
nestling beneath the navy yard, the harbor’s sweet neck.

the ship sits still through the storms—its ropes fraying
like satin ribbons. this is the second death, the waiting,

breathless, the constant decay and bringing back.
when the draining begins, the Vasa catches its breath.

and the crumbling begins. the wood unlearns the water.
hisses in the Swedish wind. forget its mossy stomach,

shrugging off a confetti of barnacles. forget the swan.
forget it was meant to swim. forget that the muskets

drowned. the metal gutted and worth nothing but rust,
fright, gulp, and salt—unfound, unlearning.

Sara Ryan is a second-year poetry MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University and an associate poetry editor for Passages North. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Storm Cellar, Tinderbox, New South, Third Coast, Slice Magazine, Fairy Tale Review and others.