Mare Nostrum

My wife JoAnn Castagna and I were together for 37 years. We would often complete, and even begin, each other’s sentences. She died in 2013. In my bereavement I found, after a time, that I could still receive her thoughts and feelings. Not in a ghostly way, but in the way we used to complement one another in speech. She has stayed with me in that way, as has her partiality for the sonnet form. “Mare Nostrum,” written on the morning of January 27, 2021, expresses my sense that the part of JoAnn’s consciousness that has fallen into my keeping would like to have been free of me, to be just herself again for a day. But my limitations and natural law would not permit it. That is a “closed sea.” But “our sea,” in which we share a state of being, will see us reunited.

Today you struggle to be heard just for
yourself, to reappear, to breathe live air,
to feel a stinging rain with shoulders bare.
You wish to see that daytime meteor
Selene flare a thousand times or more,
to be while I’m completely unaware,
eclipsed awhile, as surely I can spare
some sun for you. We had such close rapport.
Today you struggle in dark surf, and I
can see and hear you but stand powerless
on shore, can’t run, can’t swim, can’t row, can’t be
of any help. One edge of wilderness
is mare clausum, which I can’t defy.
But mare nostrum is a rising sea.

Dan Campion is the author of Peter De Vries and Surrealism and coeditor of Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song. His poems have appeared in many anthologies and magazines, including Able Muse, Light, Measure, The North American Review, Poetry, Rolling Stone, Shenandoah, and Think. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.