The Black Boat

The gondola is heavy-laden with life, it is simple and black.
                                                                                    —Tomas Tranströmer
                                                                                    Sorrow Gondola No. 2

            For Deborah

She sits. This mirror held her mother’s face
each day. Its silver stays empty now,
reflecting nothing—the room, her own face.
She turns over a brush. She will not face
those last strands. She’s empty. No tears now.
The black gondola sails past with a man
aft of the tiller. A newly lost man
who had swallowed so many tears. Today,
so soon, her mother vanishes. Each day
will hurt now. She’ll watch the empty mirror.
It stays vacant. Maybe a new mirror
will give her back her face. That ghostly, black
gondola will fade away. All the black
drapery will vanish like her face. She knows
it’s the price of time. She has always known
these days would come. But so close together—
the boat won’t contain her still bursting heart.
As big sister she must hold together—
for daughter, brother—for everyone’s heart.

Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu, was just published by Encircle Publications. A new collection is due out in December from Cherry Grove. He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian Joan Juster, where he makes his meager living pointing out pretty things. He has published 2 novels and three chapbooks and two full-length collections so far. Titles on request. A meager online presence can be found at

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