Archive for May 2009

Cop Show

Monday, May 4, 2009

She lives entirely by default, let late dusk be
sufficient decision for the day. Her halt and stammer
is excellent argument alone. She sits and smokes,

she sits and smokes and waits, and later fits
the pieces of the TV hoax into an arrest—clear
proof of her gumshoe aptitude. But what would interest

even the thirty-ninth latitude
could not get a reading with her. She’s more intrigued
by transsexuals and razors under a pyramid. Fall

is for taking the Volvo to Vermont, December
for wrapped gifts and blue spruce ‘round the crib.
These rituals continue, with her patent lack

to make the connection: memory is only one red
brick on top of another red brick, back even
and face up, separate and dead level

as the cold nail of her gaze, rejecting
the contradiction she can scratch on faces.
Because for her, each sentence has a meaning

and each sentence has another meaning, just as
everything has a place and everything has two places,
as she ponders never stunned, never moved, met—

the plunge and promise of the wild bird goes
under without a splash, a gush, not one wet
spurt, without the bead of a single green word.

Making the Rip

Monday, May 4, 2009

The fifth-graders of the Chilmark School are explaining
divisions within the group of mollusks, cuttlefish,
oysters to the town’s fishermen, chairs set in a dorsal fin.

They listen intently as Owen describes the sword
of the swordfish cutting through the water, as Katy details
the dangers of long-lining, Deborah, the principal beaming,

and a hundred residents of the town catch these men
at their best, in plaid shirts on a Sunday afternoon, here
for something we love: fishermen telling stories.

“What’s the biggest fish you ever caught?” We see the glint
of the dart or lily in Greg Mayhew’s eyes as they remember
together, “My goodness, dressed out 525 lbs. as I recall.”

Others remember 608, 618, early days of fishing, early mornings:
“We went up on this fish, he was hanging down deep . . . fourteen
tons of ice in the hold,” hooked to stern, white marlin, tuna,

the blue, blue of the swordfish, as Herbert calmly says,
“Nothing prettier than a swordfish in the water.” One
to starboard, two to port, three to strike, and drive

that pole down. Louie Larsen muses, “It was work,
and that was fun.” Song of the striker, quahogs,
cherrystones from Clam Point, eggers, pulling

the traps, the good wave of Bob Flanders, the Unicorn,
Jimmy Morgan pulling in, Jonathan Mayhew smiling,
secrets they kept from their fathers: no one tells you

where they go, but you want to go, go out,
waiting for summer, the kids waiting for summer,
squid-jigging, stripers, bluefish . . . Eric Cottle tells us,

“At fourteen, I needed a work certificate to get on
Benjamin Mayhew’s boat. Without it, he wouldn’t let me
work. I couldn’t wait for summer and school to be over—

there’s nothing else I ever wanted to do.” We come about.
Waiting for summer, waiting to drop the lines, fishing,
reeling it in. “. . . nothing else I ever wanted to do.”

Menemsha Bight

Monday, May 4, 2009

To begin on the beat, at the bight, on the beat behind
the beat, the wave beneath the wave, the cormorant low
over Menemsha Sound—Quenames, the long fish, Quansoo,
the great spreading out place, Squibnocket, where the red
ground nut grows. Names of movement and places of speech
before the words, the middle line of word and work, horizon
where the water meets the pale sky and fastens our voice
to the joining and separation, reams of pressed color.
Hand to lift and the word unspoken, entries of expenses—
to wheate, to flower, to buter, to shuger, broken phrases
and sharpened tools: the chisel and slick, timber and shingle,
planks of cut nails, stone drill and wedges to split granite.
Thrill of the diving waves, full howl of the wind across Quitsa,
Stonewall, Roaring Brook, scrape of brick on the deck
of the schooner, bowsprit and mast, harpoon and ratlines,
four at the oars and fired clay to build—Mayhew, Allen, Hunt,
brown bread and black tea, wool and flax—Tilton and Thacher,
frost on the pastures in December—Basset, Higgins, Skiffe,
the first families in town, snowy egret in the scrub oak,
blossoms on the wild pear, the sweep of full tides, curve
of the dunes, lace walls and sheep stepping to the sea,
the slide of smoothed stones, hornbeam and honey locust,
glacial shove against the dark soil, decoys on the mantel,
high fires in the keeping room, hymn of the spinning wheel,
a white pony walking in snow to the swung gate.

What lines against the sky, hip on gable, the pale yellow
of the open barn, lines on the land bound by water, cadence
of waves curling in threes, formed sentence of a holly tree
in the cool fog, union of sound and shape, spliced lines
of ancient ties of work and deed, faces of men and women
joined with other men and women—I give you this land
to work, I give you this work on the land, the plough and saw,
wagon and yoke, cattle huddled in the wind, hay in the fields.
I give you this work on the water, lobster and oyster, swordfish
and striper, osprey and tern, joy of making the rip at dusk.
I give you the winding creek and high bush blueberry, beach plum
and rosa rugosa. I give you the drink of water in the morning
from Tiasquam, the trout in Pease’s Brook, Weaquabsqua,
Keepehiggon, Fulling Mill, I give you sand and clay, words
which we have not yet formed, but speak in our lives, a bow
to neighbor, extending a hand by what is left unsaid.

Waiting for Whales

Monday, May 4, 2009

So wide a dream, so
warm and dry the hand
of my father holding

my young girl hand.
How long did we stand,
staring at those waves?

Do you see the whale,
dear, do you see it right
there—a humpback whale!

Yes, yes, I do, let’s
stay here forever and
see if we can see them.

Storefront Window

Monday, May 4, 2009

For spring the thrift store has arrayed used articles
in secondary shades of cream and raw sienna, ROY G.
BIV be damned: a mustard jumper, straw purse,

the music is over, though the dancing
can go on forever, it can go on, go on,
the music is over, though the dancing . . .

Ochre throw rugs, beige roses on cashmere, plastic
knives & forks the color of cornflowers, a painting
of bending peasants with scythes in a wheat field,

though the dancing can go on forever,
it can go on, go on . . .

Across the street, the Little League Tigers are swinging
late on pitches in the dirt, taking strikes they should
jump on, parents in their warm cars honking for hits,

though the music is over . . .

The drinkers arrive in battered cars, wrong color door
on the driver’s side, rusted fenders, connecting roads
of their mapped cheeks leading them nowhere,

though the dancing can go on forever,
the music is over, though the dancing
can go on forever, it can go on, go on.

Another beer after the worst day ever, broken sheetrock,
spilled paint, the jerk who wouldn’t pay for extra taping,
the framing out 3/8s in places,

though the dancing can go on forever,

six-cents per-kilowatt hour has to be the highest
in the county, ruined by low bidders, whipped by a slew
of near misses, wronged too many times—

the music is over,
though the dancing can go on forever . . .