Passage Without Rites (1999) by Philip Booth


Homing, inshore, from far off-soundings.
Night coming on. Sails barely full.

The wind,

in its dying, too light to lift us against
the long ebb.

My two fingers, light

on the tiller, try to believe I feel
the turned tide.

Hard to tell. Maybe,

as new currents pressure the rudder,
I come to sense

the keel beginning

to shape the flow of the sea. Deep
and aloft, it’s close

to dark.

No stars yet. Only the risen nightwind,
as we tack into its warmth,

tells us

we’ll make our homeport. Strange,
angling into the dark,

to think

how a mainsail’s camber reflects
the arc of the keel,

their dynamics

reversing whenever we tack.
You call from below,

hand up coffee,

check the glow of the compass, and
raise an eye to Arcturus,

just now

beginning to shine. All over again,
all over, our old bodies


the old mysteries: the long night
still to go, small bow-waves


a little nachtmusik; stars beyond stars
flooding our inmost eyes.

And voices,

now, come out of the dark,
deeply sounding our own.


~ Philip Booth

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