Sea Chest

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In the junk shop stood an old wood chest,
patina of ships and the sea, use and years;
the box heavy, empty, forgotten, set apart.
On the lid stenciled in bulky black a sort of tattoo,
the legend read JOHN SLATE / LIVERPOOL.
I wanted to ask but never found out, was Slate
out of Liverpool or bound for it? Down one end,
small letters read E. S. Liverpool. Is that his son,
or did that have to be another? Watch by the sea,
I think, stand there till an aura grows clear like
some maritime koan, or a bottle, frosted and cracked,
holding a slip of paper, riding the tide.

Stephen Sandy's most recent book of poems is Weather Permitting (2005). He lives in Vermont.
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