Bear Island

Sunrise. That orange globe,
a long neon thread, its reflection,
connects boat and sky,
lavender water, scent of pine.
A white-throated sparrow sings.

Above a rippled sandy bottom,
water undulates beneath the boat,
half-encircled in sand, stern landward
between rock outcrops. Apricot
clouds cross the globe’s face,
turn peach, begin to recede.

As the sun climbs Bear Island,
I imagine a dark woman bundled
in a mummy sleeping bag,
waking from a long hibernation,
birds leaping from her hair.


New Kind of Holy Ghost

Winds pick up,
loose sails flap.
Perennials return
year after year
as I do to Lake Superior
no matter the weather
or the conditions.

I blossom in the Apostles,
wooded islands of bead lily,
bunchberry, buttercup, yarrow.
Lady slipper, a tiny spinnaker,
rare, impossible to cultivate
without the northern wind.


Back Again

First time
on a sailboat after Lily’s death,
I threw up over the side.
Never before,
never since.

Our First Mate,
the roving fender,
thought it was
the stress of return.

She dug for the bucket,
plunged it into the lake,
washed the fiberglass

said I must be reliving
a dark passage.



For Pablo Neruda

Wooden, the figurehead was often the only
woman on board. Neruda rescued them
from prows, bars, even lamps,
to stand together in his house on sand.

From the window of his hiding place
he directed the rescue of the figurehead
from the prow of a broken-down ship in Isla
Negra harbor. They buried her in the corner
of an old shed. Neruda escaped into exile.

On his return he found her in an island man’s
garden covered in paint. Island women
lit candles at her wooden feet;
he took her inside, chiseled away black
to reveal her jungle of hair.


Reading the Water

We left our mooring,
traveled in circles
trying to figure out
which heading to take
and how to set the sails.

Skipper wanted to head out
into the lake beyond Outer Island.
Folks on the channel
between Otter and Cat
had no sails up. No wind.

We headed toward Oak,
found no dark rough water.
Without wind there,
we changed course again,
motored toward Fedora.

Reading the water
requires practice
and sharp eyes
to find illusive wind.



Kayakers paddled over the skeleton
last week. Skipper heard the mast is visible.

Fedora burned offshore like Noquebay,
years ago, but emerged close to the surface,
low water made the bones visible.

From a distance it looked as if
a colony of cormorants had taken roost
on an abandoned dock.

The hull of the wooden wreck
evident from ten yards. No cormorants.
Burned ribs fenced in the carcass.

Like my faith, it’s underwater,
buried in sand and doubt. The fire gone out
only remnants of the hull remain.


Kate Hallet Dayton

Kate Hallet Dayton

Kate Hallet Dayton’s first poetry collection Salt Heart was published by Nodin Press (2013). Two poems from Salt Heart were published in Nimrod International Journal, Awards 34. Her chapbook, Catalpa, was also published in the same year. Her chapbook, Missing, was published in 2004. She received an Award of Merit in Byline’s Poetry Chapbook Competition and ten poems from Missing earned her a finalist position for the Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize.  Her poetry, short stories, profiles, memoirs, reviews, essays and travel pieces have been published in  American Voices, Flyway, The Star Tribune, The Minnesota Monthly, North Coast ReviewPassages North, Whistling Shades and Nimrod International.