Trapper Markelz

Pine Row Issue No. 9 Spring 2024 - Featured Poet

Ode to the Oily Bilge of a Charter Boat

I grew up on a ladder, resurrecting the vacations of man;

summers filled with dark holes in ocean hulls—

fish, fuel, and oily stain scrubbed free with a steady hand.


It takes a tangle of hose and wire to travel leagues,

drop lines fathoms deep against lee tide, 

haul a hundred wet monsters into sunny graves.


In those holes I carried out elbows and impellers,

spark plugs and piston covers, every bolt and manifold,

perfect wrench and clamp of steel.


On hot days I’d tie my coveralls around my waist.

On cold days, I’d tuck a hooded sweatshirt

between my sleeves and shiver into a styrofoam cup.


It was the small act of rescuing a charter captain

in his time of need. Firmly hitch broken horses

back under propeller power.


In the fading noise, they’d pilot their ship away,

filled with trophy dreamers. I’d rag the grease

from my fingernails and share a car ride home.

* * * * * * * * * *

Stop Lights

From the road, you can see them

combined in a form of prayer,


a cathedral among the reeds

where forgottens gather.


A man kneels

while a woman calmly,

and with no smile,

removes his buttoned shirt.


She pulls his hands

above his head like she is placing him

on a human cross. 


When we pray, we build a pyramid

of flesh,

arms stretched in racked protest,

mouths flexing open

as is if ready to sing.


I watch them from my car,

these sacrifices,

seen from an open window

in rush hour traffic;


the touch of men & women,

in the wooded altar

of secret gods.


They are the tide that did not rise

with other boats,

content to celebrate

under eyes I cannot close

for a long, long time.

About the poem:  as shared by the poet

What are you currently working on, thematically or stylistically?

I'm working on my second chapbook manuscript, a collection of poems about fathering my three daughters. Unlike my previous Chapbook, Childproof Sky, which used a fairly traditional stanza structure, I am experimenting in this new manuscript with how whitespace can communicate transitions in thought or add multiple perspectives to a poem. 

Are there any art forms outside of poetry that influence your writing?  How does that influence manifest in your work?

I almost always do my best writing with music. Song has a way of calming and focusing my mind, bringing emotion closer to the surface so it can be more easily accessed. I've also composed various instrumental electronic music pieces over the years and often rely on vocal snippets so I deeply respect and appreciate how music and spoken words can work together to tell a story. 

Anything else a reader should know / upcoming readings, publications, etc?

My first chapbook, Childproof Sky, was just published last year in July 2023 by Cherry Dress Chapbooks, and it's been exciting to bring that out into the world. Any journal publications or readings will always be announced on my website at

Trapper Markelz (he/him) writes from Arlington, Massachusetts. He is the author of the chapbook Childproof Sky, a Cherry Dress Chapbooks 2023 selection. His work has appeared in the journals Baltimore Review, Dillydoun Review, Wild Roof Journal, Greensboro Review, and Passengers Journal, among others. Learn more at

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