Don’t Call Me Ishmael

The first big wave
would put an end
to my circumnavigation.
One swell and trough,
even a smudge of gray
on the horizon and I’d
scuttle back to port
for beer and barbecue—
in reverse all the way
if necessary.



You are in a boat
just out of the snow or rain
on the ocean close to shore
as dry and safe as
anyone could wish you
and still be in a boat.

My father is in a boat
once, twice,
there to Korea and
back to a here
dressed alike, the same,
a soldier smoking.

Maybe there are whales
and if the sun comes
the scudding clouds
we always promise ourselves
we will read about,

and the ocean
maybe the ocean
shifting from grey to blue
is a breast, a pocket,
a short trip to the store.

Smooth sailing to you both.
Bon Voyage to the point
almost of boredom
where lessons lie unlearned,
left forgotten outside
of boat and ocean.


The Painted Radio

This is no job for old men,
though not because of physics.
Instead there are these things to notice
or the inclination to notice them,
the sky full of geese,
a vantage point into backyards and windows,
the way that paint moves
from can to brush to surface.

The first wall I ever painted
included a silhouette of the ladder;
the latest was a perfect yellow square.

“There’s no art in this.
You’re just here to help it dry,”
but that’s not true,
and after a morning of plastic and masking tape
I can put blue only where I want it,
finish the trim in the same trip up the ladder,
know that this green will light up the orange next door—
it’s not just owners who make houses different colors.

The painted radio sings
away these sleepy hours in the air,
scratchy from the cracked speaker,
shiny for its one coat of lacquer,
a portable bird for all this time in white.


William Winfield Wright was born in Fresno, California. He is Fulbright Scholar, Fishtrap Fellow, and professor of English at Colorado Mesa University. He has published in 14 Hills, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Field, The Ninth Letter, Permafrost, The Seattle Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and featured on Poetry Daily.