Offloading the Ballast by Calgary Martin

If the colonizing ships arrived and colonized even the dirt
with their ballast flowers, then I too am a ballast flower. A seed deployed,
nothing more than a seed. Offloaded on the shore. Sprung up
out of waste and unknowing. A ratty little thing. A new thing.
A bad idea, a person. If you are aimless and don’t know how you
arrived wherever you arrived, call yourself a ballast flower. Decry
the captains and the governors and the kings. You are only
the stabilizing earth and stones and the ships no longer need you.
You were brought when men tried to shift the bases of the planet,
to disrupt the foundations of the soil, to slice their bows through the water,
to waggle their sterns across the great seas, to fell its trees. It was not their world
to conquer but they said it was so. It has been discussed, it is known,
it is written down as if in code. Brooklyn used to be a hill. Brooklyn
used to be a forest. Now I live in a grove of concrete fingers. Fuck it.
Fuck the Dutch name on the sandwich board where I acquire my daily coffee.
And the holes I ascend from after riding the train
under banners of good Dutch names. How I squint my eyes
on the train over the river and can see their white sails
flocking from the east. How inevitable it seems, when ferried
across the water, bordered inside of steel and glass, to look upon
the past. Here come the ballasts. Here come their seeds. Here come
their conquerors. Here come their flowers. Here comes the morning.
Here comes its ruin. Here comes the end times and the amaranth
and the refuse and the bindweed and the industry and the innocent

green leaves of the stinging nettle; here they come, here they come
to clean your blood; to open and shiver under the sun.


Calgary Martin is originally from Washington State but spent her formative years in Brooklyn, NY. Her poems appear in Bluestem, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cimarron Review, Nashville Review, The McNeese Review, and others. She lives in Illinois with her husband and son.