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Bait Shop Sestina

A sestina is a style of poem that follows a specific and challenging pattern for words that end each sentence. This one is about an abandoned and rotting bait shack where I dared to trespass as a teenager. It sat on teetering piers just offshore on the Indian River near my home in Titusville, Florida.

More a lagoon than a river,
A hometown haunt at dusk of day,
Planks decayed, I chance the crossing
From the sureness of the shore
To the old bait shack, abandoned,
Gray wood warning of things best left alone.

Mama’d say “no” by day, “never” by night, and “hell no” alone, To this rotted relic set off shore at the Indian River
I reach and step, testing timbers, no caution here abandoned,
Hovered over piers condemned in light of day.
Faint moonlight now, and scattered glow of porch lights near the shore
Scarce disclose the splintered slatted gangway, loosed and crossing.
Rhythmed waves lap barnacled pylons, swaying at my crossing.
The shack responds, windows squinted, creaks and moans intone: “Leave me alone;
It is with treasured purpose I am set beyond the shore.”
Embittered and embarrassed, a suspended specter brooding over a roiling river.
I pause. Perhaps I should…perhaps I should await the guard of day
Forsake the testing of shadows that light abandoned.

No! Face this demonic derelict! The greater fear is courage abandoned; Breath abated, teeth clenched, and fingers crossed,
“Tomorrow” is the liar’s lair; there is no other day,
Only this night; and this moment; and the choice is mine alone:
Remain aloof from terror’s raging river
Or retreat to ponder dread’s adventure from the shore.

A gap-toothed railing circumscribes this recluse from the shore
A thick hemp rope lies coiled upon the deck, long abandoned,
But no… Rope animates; writhing, sliding, a cottonmouth slips to the river,
A silent moccasin beating retreat, avoiding human crossing.
My own mouth dry as cotton, I can only hope that I am alone,
Wishing no company of things unseen to chase me back toward day.

I penetrate the crumbling cabin, once vibrant and vital on a long-gone day
When fishermen cast their eyes far beyond the shallows of the shore.
Now, half dismembered, tin roof gaping, a bait shop open to the moon alone.
A patina-veiled sign offers “Live Shrimp.” All else speaks of livelihood abandoned.
No monsters here, just eerie echoes of lies and laughter, from wall to wall still crossing.
Left behind by those once baited by dreams on the river.

This timber time capsule is day-by-day and piece-by-piece abandoned,
Dying into driftwood on the shore; collapsing into rotted pillars crossing.
The shack will one day be mine alone; as bones dissolve to ghosts on the river.

Picture of Wes Stephenson

Wes Stephenson

Author, motorcyclist, poet, and adventurer. Let's journey together.



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