Ahab’s Hawser Tows His Purpose Yet — Devon Balwit

Ahab is forever Ahab, man…I am the Fates’ lieutenant; I act under orders…I feel strained, half stranded,
as ropes that tow dismasted frigates in a gale; and I may look so But ere I break, ye’ll hear me crack; and
till ye hear that, know that Ahab’s hawser tows his purpose yet

People turn away discretely, (or they don’t,
cameras held out like crosses in processional

filming ruin for later rumination, all the while
thinking there but for the grace of God, a roll

of the dice, no more) their awkwardness,
a wooly itch I gouge at, raising red furrows

for later salting. I feel strained, half-stranded,
yet for all that, I keep my head into the wind, prow

cutting to the next bollard, towing my purpose.
What is it? Though I know, I keep mum, leaving

future ones such as you to pick out my singularity
among the blizzard of foraminifera, following

my inward-turning spiral and naming me. I know,
but will not say. I am the Fates’ lieutenant,

a naked standard-bearer for something greater,
something kin to crazy. Don’t be afraid.

It doesn’t just happen, you choose it, going down
on one knee to be slapped with the flat of a blade.

Once you rise, you notice everything, salt corrosion,
lint, lit motes drifting in breezes. I did, and I do.


Devon Balwit writes in Portland, OR. She is a poetry editor for Minute Magazine and has five chapbooks out or forthcoming: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press); Forms Most Marvelous (dancing girl press); In Front of the Elements (Grey Borders Books), Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders Books); and The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry). Her individual poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Fifth Wednesday, The Carolina Quarterly, Red Earth Review, The Fourth River, Emrys Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and more.