“The Ferryman” by Katie Bickham

Katie Bickham


The ferryman is counting up his fares
as blood congeals and stains and spills and clots.
It’s cash or coin. No cards. No thoughts and prayers.

A mother tears her clothes, a boy despairs.
Their vigils litter cities lit with dots.
The ferryman is trembling, counting fares.

He’s had to buy new oars, to make repairs,
stays up nights counting bullets, mopping spots
of blood off of his deck: the thoughts and prayers

just one more thing needs sweeping, extra cares
tossed on his shoulders already in knots.
A better boatman wouldn’t bear such cares.

I have my work, and up there, they have theirs,
he tells himself, but jumps when he hears shots.
So many. He can’t stand to count the fares.
He navigates a river red with prayers.

from Poets Respond
October 5, 2017


Katie Bickham: “Those of us who have been paying attention to mass shootings and working and calling out for years for something to be done legislatively—many of us at least—have checked out. Hopelessness has settled onto us like a heavy blanket, and there is a strange sense of finality in the air. Las Vegas is where we are. After Newtown, where else was there for us to go?” (website)

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