The Dubose & Dorothy Heyward Society Prize
The thing you must learn is how to take the helm,
anything to keep from drowning or being blown to sea—
how to man the tiller when the pummeling begins,
ignore leviathans that gleam and glare, dare to ride the swells,
although there are times when you need only press
your back against the cockpit seat to keep your balance,
horizons swaying up and down, right and left,
voices promising ports of call you’ve never seen before.
No one there to warn about the bars and shoals
that leave you high and dry, if not dead in the water.
When clouds hover and hurt howls like the wind itself,
it is the reefing and sheeting you must learn—
how to move through the queasy unknown alone, bend
chance your way, no matter the pitching and turning—
how to take the wind on the beam no matter the scars,
the bruises, the bloody nose—
how to stand calm, steer toward whatever’s out there.