Sea Trails - Poems and 1977 Passage Notes
By: Pris Campbell
Genre: Poetry, Trade Paper 6X9
Publisher: Lummox Press (PO Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733-5301) www.lummoxpress.com
Publishing Date: October 2009
Retail: $15 + shipping
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See Pris Campbell Read from Sea Trails
About Sea Trails...
This 1977 trip was the fulfillment of a dream that
the man I will only refer to as R and I had, individually. Together, we decided
to make it reality. We lived in a commune in Boston where expenses were low, but
we still put ourselves on a strict budget for two years. No frills allowed. My
income was the one high enough to qualify for a boat loan after we discovered
the boat that was to become Little Adventure. In the late seventies, women still
couldn’t be granted a loan unless a husband or financially responsible male
co-signed. I went to the bank manager after being turned down by the assistants.
He turned out to be a sailor, himself, broke the rules and gave me the loan. For
that, I‘m grateful. I’m also grateful that such limitations no longer exist for
Over the next two years we took Power Squadron courses on everything from what knot fits what occasion to advanced navigation to sail to engine maintenance. We practiced sail maneuvers and man overboard drills as part of our preparation. Our savings were meant to last for a year. They came mostly from my salary while R paid off an old college loan. I also paid health insurance for a year in advance for us both at a time when that was completely affordable for people who weren’t wealthy.
Our relationship, however, was dying as the time neared for us to go, but the trip had taken on a life of its own. R’s anger over my job success compared to his was a barbed wire for me to deal with. His eye was beginning to rove, too. I wanted this trip, though, and wasn’t out of love yet. Maybe I hoped the trip would bring back what we’d lost. We gave notice in our jobs, said our good-byes and left.
Was it crazy? Yes, in terms of our deteriorating relationship. No, in terms of what was to become one of the most meaningful adventures of my lifetime.
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“We never see things in themselves, only things as they
appear to our own particular sensibilities, moods, and associations. Nowhere is
that clearer than in poetry, and nowhere in poetry is that clearer than in Pris
Campbell’s new book, Sea Trails. Part travelogue and part poetic narrative, the
book brilliantly counter-poses poetic revelations of the speaker as she moves
from “in love” to “out of love” and prose descriptions of a journey down the
American Intracoastal Waterway, including details of the physical workings of
the journey and of the landscapes which sustain her. An emotional, sensual, and
visceral joy to read.”
Here are a few poems from the book...
"I must go down to the sea again…"
I board the tiny sloop that has carried me
twice to Maine with its deep
silent harbors and moaning buoys.
I'm ensnared, trapped by increasing
longings to ride that magic carpet
into places different from my own
narrow world of nine to five rewind.
Saltwater rises through my body,
is transformed through its heat
into golden mist. I expand
without Alice's cookies,
become a gull dropping clams
on the rocks to crack them,
a molting lobster, a leaping dolphin,
a man watching the sky from a deserted dock.
The sea is my cradle and it rocks me,
lulling me into new ways of seeing.
My arms unfurl into sails.
I let the wind take me.
Tiller clutched between knees for steering,
crouched over, eyes scanning the horizon,
I nudge our bow towards the outreached boom.
When the wind finally loosens its grip,
I pull the line fast, hand over hand.
My legs become coils, balancing me
as we slide into the trough.
Today’s wind turns stronger than a trumpet’s wail,
and the boom pauses mid-ship, as if to warn me,
crosses over, until our mainsail strains white
against blue again. A Paul Newman sky.
The head of our little boat is crowning
into Newman’s eyes.
I’ve birthed her hundreds of times
just as she’s birthed me,
but each time is a new time.
Umbilical cut, we move towards the open sea.
The Chesapeake opens beneath us,
a woman spreading her skirt wide
to greet the Atlantic, already throbbing
with September winds at her feet.
I learn to lay down a trot line,
haul hungry crabs to the surface, tossing
the lucky red-bellied females back.
I learn that fish gasp in upper Bay
pollution, that sea grass cries,
that watermen chug out at dawn past
clanging buoys and clearing mist
hoping to net their catch for the day.
I learn that heaven is right here
in these blue waters, the upside-down sky,
that the spirits of old sailors walk
on our bow at night, telling lost stories
about Tangier Isle, Shanks, Queens Ridge,
Piney Island. I learn how love
of the sea can rush right through you
with the wind, until your heart is translucent
with joy as intense as pain.
Aftermath: Thirty Years Later
I remain a child of the sea,
hobbled now with this illness
that netted me, still hear the sirens
calling and so I rise in the night,
thinking to adjust the anchor line,
make sure the boat hasn't slipped.
I rest my hand on the tiller,
watch the stars swell up in greeting,
feel the tide rock the boat again like a cradle.
I'm grateful I didn't wait, didn't
get stuck with only dreams to console me.
The scent of brine fills the room.
A strand of sea grass appears in my hand.
My sirens' parting gift before daybreak.
About the Author:
The poetry of Pris Campbell has appeared in such journals
as Chiron Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, OCHO, and
Wild Goose Review. She was featured poet in 2008/2009 in
Empowerment4Women , In the Fray, and From East to West. In
2008, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent chapbook,
Hesitant Commitments, was published by Lummox Press (www.lummoxpress.com)
and is part of the Little Red Book series. Before she was sidelined by
CFIDS in 1990, Pris was a Clinical Psychologist, working in St Louis, Honolulu,
Providence, and Boston, ending up in the greater West Palm Beach, FL, where she
currently lives with her husband, a sea loving dog and a cat who sleeps on her