Cindy Hunter Morgan is the author of two chapbooks, “The Sultan, The Skater The Bicycle Maker” and “Apple Season”. The following poem, “Isle Royale, 1928”, is from a growing collection of poems she is writing relating to shipwrecks on the Great Lakes. Both Chapbooks have won national poetry awards.
“Isle Royale, 1928” first appeared in “West Branch” and also appears in her first chapbook. Hunter Morgan said, “I think, after I wrote it, I had a sense of the shipwreck project I wanted to tackle. It took me a few years to start it, but this poem was probably the beginning.” This particular poem was inspired by the sinking of the steamship America, a 182 feet passage and package freighter.
Hunter Morgan lives in East Lansing, Michigan and teaches creative writing at Michigan State University. For more information visit the author’s website. Watch a dive on the America
ISLE ROYALE, 1928
by Cindy Hunter Morgan
After the frame house was moved
from one side of the island to another
on a raft of empty gas barrels,
she dreamed of dollhouses
floating on sterling silver thimbles,
of beds that rowed as easily as skiffs.
she felt the mattress shifting beneath her,
felt it being tugged gently
and skidded onto dry ground
to a clearing near thimbleberries and harebells.
She woke in darkness beneath a warm quilt,
stoked the cast iron stove
which had not wobbled on its journey,
set the table with dishes
which had not chipped,
and poured syrup into a pitcher
which had not cracked.
When daylight came,
she watched sunshine settle
in corners previously unlit
and shook out rugs in a new yard
and entered her house from a new direction
as though she was conducting her life
She wondered if this was what heaven was like,
a place you loved turned slantwise
with strange angles of sunshine.
One afternoon after the steamer America sank,
she looked out the kitchen window
and saw fruit floating in the harbor –
bananas, strawberries, and cantaloupe
bobbing around like the cedar corks
that sometimes worked loose from gill nets.
She walked through cinquefoil and hawkweed
and waded into shallow water,
collecting melons in an apron coated with flour,
sucking on strawberries,
thinking how different life was on this side,
where fruit washed to shore like driftwood
and sunshine lingered long into the evening.