Ahab’s Crew

By on Dec 27, 2020 in Poetry

Moby Dick, boarding school


— Boarding School, 1980

October flares in western PA.
In rumpled uniforms boys mock
each other around the oak
table, two chairs lean
daringly on back legs.
The schoolmaster shows up

late on black mornings, the beret tipped
wide on his high forehead and a tweed
jacket dangling from his hunched shoulder.
Twice he clears his throat, a voice more trusted
than their own fathers, before reading out
loud from Moby Dick. Thin smoke
rises from the hot ember at his fingertips.
Half-listening, they slouch
with their hair hurling
round their heads, look up at his moving lips,
pausing to hear how the sailors’ long
arms swim elbow deep
through the Pequod’s barrel
of spermacelli, oily fingers hunt
for their shipmates’ hands to hold on deck
in the light of day. By evening,

the housemaster, barefoot
in the common room, calls lights out.
Sleepless on slim beds, hungry hands
in the dark hit on eager skin
under crisp white sheets. Never again
would we drop into our bodies
with the same aching.


Anthony Botti's poetry has appeared recently in Comstock Review, The MacGuffin, Cider Press Review, Caveat Lector, Clark Street Review, Old Red Kimono, Tiger’s Eye, The Rockford Review, and Peregrine. He lives in Boston with his partner and their pug, Ernie, where he works in health care management at Harvard University.