“The Wine-Dark Sea” and “The Weighing of the Heart”

The Wine-Dark Sea

A sea wife,

my mother didn’t have time

to pace a widow’s walk,

searching for a sail on the horizon.

She was too busy

pinning up sheets to dry,

weeding the garden,

kneading floury bread dough,

wrangling four children.

No suitors to fend off.

No weaving to unpick.

She knitted argyle socks

for her Odysseus.

After a shift at the cannery

she sat up late tapping

on the old Remington

the songs she’d written

in her head while sorting

green beans for Del Monte.

Did she ever wonder

if a Circe waited

at some exotic port,

if he ever answered a siren’s call?

For nearly twenty years,

she heard the Trojan stories,

every pub crawl and brawl

from Ithaca to Yokohama retold.

When he retired from a life at sea,

to his pipe, his dog, his guns,

his wife and children,

to reclaim his throne-like chair,

her once-familiar stranger

brought home the war.

The Weighing of the Heart

When my heart is placed

on the scales

against Ma’at’s feather—

or perhaps a quill,

when I no longer have eyes to see,

no breath to hold

waiting for the judgment,

will Anubis standing by,

press his thumb on the tray

where my heart lies,

lift it out and toss it

to the crocodile-headed goddess

who will snap up the tender morsel

in her jaws?

Or will I be handed back

the boarding pass of my heart

along with all I’ll ever need

pulled behind me

like wheeled luggage,

every canopic jar ringing

a harmonic at the gateway

to the After Life?

About the Author

Kathleen Holliday

Kathleen Holliday lives on an island in the Salish Sea. Her poems have appeared in The Bellingham Review, The Blue Nib Literary Magazine, Cathexis Northwest Press, New Ohio Review, Nimrod International Journal, Poet Lore, Poetry Super Highway, SHARK REEF, The Write Launch and other journals. She is a graduate of Augsburg University, Minneapolis, MN. Her chapbooks, Putting My Ash on the Line, (2020), and Boatman, Pass By (2023), were published by Finishing Line Press.