WEDNESDAY: Obsure Triumph


Copyright is held by the author.


Even after the iron jaws of the pack ice
crushed their wooden ship
like a thin-walled seashell,
Shackleton brought all his men
home alive from their aborted journey
to cross Antarctica on foot.

With a salt-soaked crew of five
in an open lifeboat
and only the stars to steer by,
he sailed 800 miles of rough seas
then trekked across South Georgia,
that snow-clenched island,
to Grytviken port.
           As soon
as a ship could be launched
he rushed southward and picked up
the men he’d left with hopes as frozen
as the ice they camped on
in wind-blown tents
with dwindling supplies
next to the sinking wreckage—
the only loss three frostbitten toes.


Danger being ever-present
in heavy construction,
planners predicted sadly
it might cost up to thirteen lives
to build the Gateway Arch at St. Louis,
to create that stainless steel landmark
six hundred silvery feet high;
but not one man fell—startled
to take a last, fleeting view

              of the Eads Bridge —
or was crushed by muddy cave-ins
in the maw of its deep-dug base.

Such obscure triumph!
Shining monument to
what didn’t happen.


Image of Lynn Gilbert.

Lynn Gilbert’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Appalachian Review, Banyan Review, Blue Unicorn, Concho River Review, Exquisite Corpse, Gnu, Light, Mezzo Cammin, Mortar, Sheepshead Review, Southwestern American Literature, and elsewhere. An associate editor at Third Wednesday journal, she has been a finalist in the Gerald Cable and Off the Grid Press book contests. She was a founding editor of Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and lives in a suburb of Austin.

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