national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2011

Sea Burial

John Paul Gramelis  • 
University of Vermont

I scribble a poem on torn sailcloth—
The calm, cool face of the sea
asked me for a kiss—
then leap from the windward bulwarks
early on dawn watch.


A splash rarely goes unnoticed
on a night like tonight—
wind blowing five knots,
sailing under fore and afters
and fisherman.But the jib distracts the helmsman
with its whip-crack calls to head off wind,
and the man on bow watch sleeps coolly
in the phosphorescent sea spray
on the sprit.


I lie stripped down to watch cap,
cursing the buoyancy of salt water,
carrying the sea on my back.
Draco tacks and jibes
his way through the southern sky.


I am curious about my second coming—
whether I’ll be swallowed by a great leviathan,
absorbed through the walls of its
ballantined innards, or whether I’ll trade
my schoonerman’s arms for a pair of ragged claws.