Austin Segrest


          Dorchester, 1640


The ship of grace is under weigh
I heard the preacher Warham say.
A merchant adventurer to drive
a trade with God when we arrive.
We shan’t return, but the return
on our adventure is etern-
al life. The seaborne seed of faith
will come to thrive the preacher saith.
Convicted and conscripted so,
I begged my father let me go:
miscarried or delivered right,
lost overboard or holding tight,
sealed with the Spirit, scribed in God’s own hand,
intended for the Promised Land.


And in my flower and prime I came
where precious little looks the same.
Three hundred tons, six weeks at sea,
and England shrunk
to just the trunk
my mother packed for me.

Sea-swayed and swaddled, born anew,
I prayed the waves would let us through.
Mixing mercy with correction,
the Atlantic
rocked my hammock
with a cold affection.

Our captain took us, listing south,
no farther than the harbor mouth.
Delivered up to my Deliverer,
I joined the boat
with one Southcoat
to the interior.

We paddled up, and I was glad
to draw first guard, though lightly clad.
The Lord had called. But then I thought,
as sleep pressed down,
of Simon caught
out nodding in the garden.

I heard old Tom the planter vanished.
Doubt not but that he has been banished.
He’d brook no ban nor take no order.
If not for him
we’d had to swim
to shore to reconnoiter.


Pay no heed to those who prate
how coming will alleviate
your toothache, ague, cough, and rheum.
The winds do pierce,
the heat is fierce,
and many meet their doom.

Disease will find his rooms convenient,
just as the indiscriminate
pox found the wigwam comfortable
and cleared the coast
of half the host
to set our Savior’s table.

We count the harshness of the land
among the blessings from His hand.
And may we never grow content.
Who settles here
does so in fear,
nor doubts his time is lent.

Austin Segrest

is a native Alabaman and teaches poetry in north-central Wisconsin. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri, where he studied Puritans, among other things, and was poetry editor of The Missouri Review. His poems can be found in Threepenny Review, Yale Review, Blackbird, Ploughshares, Image, and Harvard Review. He currently reviews poetry for Southern Humanities Review.