The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


John Philip Drury



All of these years spent studying, late nights
cramming for exams, equipped you for this:
an evening at the harbor, the ship’s lights
blinking awake, breeze blowing in the scent
of spices from a dockside factory.

When Venice was an empire of the sea,
her arsenal could produce a warship daily,
a fighting galley, oars sticking out of portholes
like the legs of a centipede crawling over waves.
Workers provisioned ships that glided past
windows along a canal, tossing coils
of rope and kegs of salted meat on board.

Instead of smashing champagne on a bow,
we ought to share a drink and toast good luck
to maiden voyages, as if, this time,
the Titanic might avoid the iceberg, arriving
to cheers in New York, gradually becoming
anonymous as passengers in steerage
who wait their turns to amble down the gangplank.

Sun dimming, foghorns bellow mating calls.
We think the ship’s still docked, but as in dreams
we’ve slipped away already, toward the rocks
and ruined lighthouse by the harbor’s mouth,
the sea beyond it merging into sky.




JOHN PHILIP DRURY is the author of four full-length poetry collections: Sea Level Rising (Able Muse Press, 2015), The Refugee Camp (Turning Point Books, 2011), Burning the Aspern Papers (Miami University Press, 2003), and The Disappearing Town (Miami University Press, 2000). He has also written Creating Poetry and The Poetry Dictionary, both from Writer’s Digest Books. One of his poems, “Burning the Aspern Papers,” was published in The Paris Review as the winner of the Bernard F. Conners Prize for a long poem. He’s a Professor of English at the University of Cincinnati.



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