MARY SHELLEY'S DREAM
thou aspiring Child
When I think of Mary Shelley,
she is in a room full of windows.
It is Italy. Late afternoon.
The skirt of her white dress
dazzles with the late sun on it,
the bodice dark as a bruise in shadow.
Outside, the broad turquoise sea,
the boats lined up in neat rows
like children’s toys, their dark masts
pitched above the pure frivolity
of the white-capped waves.
She will have remembered this view:
a single gull looks cool and aloof,
the sand as white as fine Italian bread.
And if it is true that we are saved
by what we can’t forget,
she will have remembered
this vision of archways, corridors,
and the daughter she holds, now grown cold.
She bends over her lost child, now,
as if she could complete herself
with this sudden emptiness.
And she will hold onto this afternoon
for a long time, as if by remembering
this and this and this—
for we do not forget these dreams,
nor easily release our dead,
least of all this young woman
alone in the late Italian afternoon,
this mother to a last ship, this lost harbor.
Margaret Mackinnon's work has appeared in Poetry, New England Review, Georgia Review, Quarterly West, Southern Humanities Review, Poet Lore, and other publications. Her awards include the Richard Eberhart Poetry Prize from Florida State University, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and a residency at the Vermont Studio Center.