Poetry: the last, the only by Gabriel Seals
Gabriel Seals writes delicately of family, of houses and siblings and parents. “The last, the only” layers gentle loneliness on the soft threads of relationships, on the “naked masses” of our familial hopes and losses—asking, where is home?
the last, the only
There is a shadow on the water. You
believe your excess a salvation, a
pouring of glass from a paper cup, the
cost of a dozen apples in marbles and
buttons. In the springtime, the arrows
fly straighter because there are fewer
You were on a boat or you were the boat or
you saw the boat as you saw your mother,
a girl in another time, the last daughter of
eleven heirs, gathering bark and cotton,
applying age how some fix butter to
bread. In order to obtain milk, your mother
had to walk among the sterling masts and
sails of the naked masses to harvest the soft
life from old bodies.
In the distance, a man waves hyacinth at you,
the same flower your mother wore on your
wedding day in the depths of August, where
the bridesmaids were brides themselves,
seven for seven, a perfect score in a scoreless
age. The viole(n)t siege of those rocking bodies
making summer heat out of autumn light.
The year that boat marooned itself in the oasis
of your backyard and you played crewless
captain to a waterless vessel, your brother
joined the great war, fighting to be the next
anchor in your family’s body, a small collection
of passing glances and kind words, placing
stolen cigarettes in secret mouths.
Off the coast of so many islands, you have been
found dreaming in another language, making
promises you do not understand, asking
to always exist but never occur, seeing
that not all smoke means fire means smoke,
discovering how home is a place hoped for
though you have lived there all your life.
Gabriel Seals lives in Nashville, TN, and received his MA in English from Belmont University. He is the 2016 recipient of the Sandra Hutchins Humanities Symposium Writing Award in Poetry. His poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from BOAAT, Frontier Poetry, Zone 3, Rockvale Review, The Tennessee Magazine, and the anthologies 20/20 Focus on Scotland: A Poetic Response to Photography and Backyards & Boulevards: Words from the Neighborhoods of Nashville. He has received retreat scholarships from Sundress Academy for the Arts, is a senior poetry editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine, and was nominated for a Best of the Net in 2018.