The Edmund Fitzgerald Is Out There

Russell Thorburn

Russell Thorburn

The Edmund Fitzgerald is Out There was accepted as part of the MSU Library Short Edition call for work on the theme of “recovery,” in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum's exhibit of Beverly Fishman's art, also called Recovery. Russell Thorburn is a recipient of a National Endowment Fellowship and the first poet laureate of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He lives in Marquette, where he sometimes performs with his sextet Radio On. His one-act play of a retro-alternate reality, Gimme Shelter, was set for a premiere at the Black Box Theatre but was cancelled by the pandemic.

No sun today, the rolling choppers bent on their tempest,
and that great graveyard of water never
gives up its dead. A man beholds the suffering
in a flooding hatch, sees his fate suddenly sealed,
like Fortunato who recognizes the others,
the water an avalanche of cold that will suck out
your breath like the last minutes on a clock.
A ghostly bubbling echo of your remaining life,
hands struggling to remain above the waterline.
That's me in my tennis shoes, headed to the Coast Guard
Station, with its rescue vessel moored to the breakwall.
On the other side, wild water, and I always stop
like a sentinel to scan the heaving horizon
for a floundering swimmer, someone washed away.
It's this poem then with its slackening lines
that I'd throw to the drowning hopeless,
like those others falling into death's edge,
who happen to be reading my poetry,
deciding my syntax or subject, misplaced
commas: my name hardly mattering at all.

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