Poetry: “The River Holds the Ghost Ship Through Her Grief” by Amanda Oaks


The River Holds the Ghost Ship Through Her Grief

There’s a sparseness of the tongue / a not-quite-what-I-mean / all of the time, I mean. / b/c it’s a fact / the word is not the thing— / but why? / i’d ask the sky / but it’s only / S-K-Y. … I ask you / how can the universe fit / between / A and Z?
—Em B, from her poem “Poesy,’ that was published in the Pomona Valley Review under her birth name.[1]


I held a lot of good hearts once, I was more than just a ship
with a flawed captain, I was a vessel of potential, rode

the seaway of love, a barge full of flavor & harmony & you’re
trying to put the blame on me but the blame should not lie

with my infrastructure, America, it should lie with yours,
for years I’ve watched you abandon your artists, watched you

deny them the water to grow, so closefisted with your cash,
so urgent with your need to make a buck after they rise though

but never provide anything for their growth to get there & now
my hull is covered in eviction notices, signed & stamped from

every major city inside you, even though I was worst-case scenario,
was faulty boiler & no damage control, I was an overflowing sickbay,

& more than just a building, you know, but I don’t think you know
what the word sacred means, you bleed money for the filthy & already

spilling over & ignore what is pure & in need. I don’t like your face,
America, I don’t like what you’ve become, but wait—I mean—who

am I trying to fool here, me or you, because really—I don’t like
what you’ve always been, & I want to ask you why but I know

there’s too much blood in your mouth to spell it all out.

Amanda Oaks is the founding editor of Words Dance Publishing, an independent press, literary blog and biweekly online poetry journal. Her works have appeared in numerous online and print publications, including decomP, Stirring, and Thought Catalog. She is the author of four poetry collections: Hurricane Mouth (NightBallet Press, 2014), her co-authored split book, I Eat Crow (Words Dance, 2014), and her series of free music-inspired eChapbooks. Find out more: WordsDance.com.

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[1]Em B was a poet who perished in the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. To learn about her, visit here.