She came from the rubble-edge of tracks,
my little Jessie, O –
her father gambled so,
her mother sunk low, like a parallax
of sallow sun. Harsh raptor features,
thin gewgaws in a needle-nest –
indifferent lights, long-distant stars...
– as if the morning held no lamp
for choppy grizzlies, salt-
&-pepper crowns. O Walt,
where be thy warm palm now? Thy camp
amid tin canvases o’ cheery braves?
Jonah & Jessie, splintered
by the sea, had wintered
in the bottomland, like jasper leaves;
no voice of kind encouragement,
no ring-dove warbling
could break the iron thing
that iced the whole whale-monument.
Only one bright prong near St. Louis
promised their release –
an upturned kayak, Miss
Virginia (airy gate to happiness).
Slant waves of sorrow wash across
the little pine deck, Jessie
sang, but comfort thee –
my soft cathedral floats on moss.