Sunday Afternoon

February 27, 2015



He died doing what he loved, watching football

in ultra high-def and shouting out corrections

of the color guy’s grammar; duly pouring

an Octoberfest at the start of each quarter


to either embolden the young secondary or help

re-establish the running game, while many in town

were out dragging in wooden skiffs, getting their

limit of bay scallops on special family permits.


The fall here stands you up, buckling leaves the

deep red of Falcons’ sleeves Away, peach tips

of yellowing swamp maples aglow like early ‘80s

Buccaneer jerseys spinning down in SLO-MO.


Dinner for those who culled and shucked will be

pearly gobbets simmered in butter, but game fare

here was cheesesteaks, loaded—no, it’s O.K.,

the no-huddle Iggles in the other conference.


What ground is gained, boats cranked up onto

trailers as the clock winds down and officials mark

forward progress. Why move the chains—let

the unbalanced lines crash into each other.


He should be remembered for his love of the end

around and cadences that insisted, always

seemingly split out to the left, bending forward, set

on the hard count, looking at third and manageable.




First Night of the Full Moon

October 4, 2011

Well look at you, overdoing it again,
dropping the popular clouds—and going
with that glitzy stream to enchant the shore,
while you await the waves’ ovation.

At least the rocks ignore you. Retirees
with high assessments are trying out
showy modifiers behind sliding glass.
Writing classes are cashing in.

Sure the Bard himself penned exalted
adjectives more than a hundred times—
gracious, fruitless, blessed, gazing,
modest, mortal, fleeting, envious
. . .

but you remain one oblivious orb,
our preening globe rolling through
systems and centuries, still
reprising this gaudy entrance.

Sixteen Shades of Gray

September 23, 2011

The angle opens, the horizon
vanishes. Still, for the ten-
thousandth time I work
separations onto a surface.

If there were some resolution,
I could understand, but nothing
shows, nothing moves from head
to heart to hand, but blood.

I stop, and watch intensity
diminish on the glass. Nothing
is detected, the screen oblique,
deflection of an artificial edge.

And the Ocean, Always the Ocean

July 7, 2011

They’re painting all the houses white in Edgartown,
capping flat pickets to fences around resplendent lawns,
cut on a diagonal. The parade is just around the corner.
Sit at the spinning wheel in the keeping room, scrimshaw
on the mantel. The crane swings in the high fireplace
and the streets are filled with shouts for the whaling ships—
Apollo in 1816, next the Loan, and then, really, the Hope;
prosperous worshippers at the Whaling Church, six-year old
Laura Jernegan on a three-year voyage with her captain father.

Melville based Tashtego on harpooners from Gay Head, but
Gayheader Amos Smalley actually brought in a white whale.
Moshup changed the footprint of the land, now Aquinnah,
Wampanoag for “end of the island.” Here the herring run,
cranberries are collected. The lighthouse once a Fresnel lens,
with a thousand-and-three prisms over luminous water
and staggered colors of the clay cliffs— here the majesty
of the red-tailed hawk and the ancient grounds for deer,
the language of the ancestors speaking centuries.

In Chilmark, everyone learns to sign, the daily commerce
of community. At the brickyard, they’re drying bricks; grinding
clay to a fine powder for oilcloth paint. Sheep in the fields
and swordfish on slippery decks. Wooden decoys on ponds
and stone walls dipping with the land. They’re raising
the Third Meeting House with chisels & slicks. Ospreys
at Lucy Vincent. Thomas Hart Benton is painting Josie West.
Here’s the Quitsa Strider and Benjamin Mayhew’s boat;
sunset and cherrystones, ocean expanse at the Allen Farm.

Holmes Hole, Tisbury, the bright sounds of enterprise,
and The Sound, once the second busiest waterway
in the world, sailors ashore at the Seaman’s Bethel,
now sailboats in the safe harbor, The Gale of 1898
just a memory, with writers in the gracious houses
on Main St., rebuilt after the Great Fire burned downtown
from the harness factory to The Mansion House. Here’s
the first Uncatena steaming towards the dock—still
a destination: from the Marine Hospital to Owen Park.

West to West Tisbury, the Athens of the Island,
seven pianos on Music Street after George Smith
bought one for his daughter, couples strolling
on a Sunday afternoon listening to Brahms and Bach.
To The Fair, with ribbons won for baking apple cobbler,
the Ferris Wheel high above the Grange and Ag halls.
Tiasquam to the ocean, to Tisbury Great and oysters
for the taking, ice-cutting in Ice House Pond—town
where Joshua Slocum retired, dancers at the Gallery.

Oak Bluffs to Cottage City then back again, Dorothy West
is writing “Cottagers Corner.” Town of fireworks and fests . . .
and camping Methodists. Gingerbread scrolls of cresting waves
and pale flowers—it’s Illumination Night, pastel lanterns
and paddle wheel steamers. Roller skaters by the Sea View,
and Ulysses S. Grant at the Tabernacle atoning for his sins.
Tourists are buying taffy at Darling’s Popcorn Store, walking
to the Flying Horses carousel, hand carved heads looking
past Circuit Ave. to Ocean Park, the Inkwell and Farm Pond.

The towns are separate, . . . but separate. Equal . . .
but unmistakable, the quiet push of most action,
the paths of least time, the insistence on continuity,
finding the rhythm of ourselves on a land on loan.
Donations pour in: a hospital, the airport expands.
They’re putting up a barn, moving a house, opening
a cut. And always the lure of fishing, scallops from
the ponds, schooners in the harbor, oil for lanterns
and red clay for bowls, shipyards filled with rigging.
The farmers with warm soil in their hands, soul
of the hills we travel, bone and shell purified, humus
on leek roots, G clefs at the top of garlic shoots.
And out on the water, striper, blues, and lobster,
in the haze of baked salt air, slash of a remote cloud
as small stones and sea glass rattle and recede.

To the cedars on the hill, the waves in threes,
to the harbors and jetties and shipwrecks,
to the shingled Capes and brick foundations,
we’ve weathered Grey’s Raid and hurricanes,
herring scales to pearls—our presence is the past.

Received: Correspondence from Owner

June 2, 2011

Where the flower in green darkness buds, blossoms, and fades,
Unseen of all shepherds and flower-loving maids—
Song, John Clare

You have mistakenly placed fifteen winterberry shrubs
where the planting list plainly specifies nine winterberry

and six bayberry. Please correct this error without uprooting
the tender ground cover or hitting buried irrigation hoses.

The north slope has been rough-graded hundreds of times
by uncommunicative laborers and former (It’s fine.)

users in sleeveless tees, smoking while your foreman gives
instructions, distractedly raking and pushing wheelbarrows

full of lime, loam and compost past gravel and wet burlap.
They dig, plant and fertilize; they spread wood chips, but

we seem to have paid a premium for amending soil
and erecting temporary fences for erosion control.

The replacement cherry is considerably smaller than
the one that was barely watered or staked correctly.

The fieldstone steps seem undersized and predictable—
vestigial rather than primitive and lacking intrigue.

The blue you promised in the hydrangeas is not
apparent yet, and the copper beech a bit wispy.

Please import premium mulch to raise the kitchen
garden bed and begin restoring the disturbed meadow.

When we arrive for the season, our privacy becomes
paramount. Kill the music where the property starts.

Ask your men not to appear shirtless at any time. If
a finger is split or scraped under a stone piece, yelling

we understand, but otherwise keep the language down.
Calling of new lovers or girlfriends while performing

cost/plus extras are prohibited. Arguments/disputes with
girlfriends/wives are not to be conducted on the premises.

If someone arrives for a child support payment or cash
to halt a disconnection or cancellation, keep transactions

strictly financial. And as for the driver of the faded red
F-150 Custom filled with hard rakes and seed spreaders,

wiring a muffler with a hanger or pouring pond water into
a steaming radiator are not allowable work related jobs.

Please complete the work to the specifications and our
satisfaction with as little hostility as possible. Anger

and frustration jeopardize the harmony of the project.
Composition, not contention, wins the day. Finally,

the contract protects everyone, ensures progress and
accountability . . . and the boundary walls are repaired.