Archive for January 2010

The Stocks

Monday, January 18, 2010

Notes on “The Fishermen”

Sometimes you tire of those who have seen it all. Old salts and grizzled carpenters would gather in front of the store counter to badmouth people, but when someone walked in, they went silent. I would nod, they wouldn’t. They knew the big houses people were building, “must be a bitch to heat.” They had seen people come here before and think that they could set the world on fire. I just took my change and went along. But when the owner of the town sand & gravel pit appropriated approximately 25 tons of fieldstone belonging to me, to build his guest house, I went to the police chief of the town and reported what had happened. After a pause, he said, “You know, John, he’s always been greedy.” It seemed so succinct, almost ancient justice. Then I felt we needed more dictums to follow. We needed more proverb looking precepts to live by. I decided not to research them, but to just concoct new principles that would sound as though they had been written in the time of Anne Bradstreet, with yokes and stocks, with meeting houses and carts, with sugar spelled as shuger and wheat as wheate, to outdoor prisons and broken wooden wheels, so I began the poem, The Fishermen.

The Fishermen

Monday, January 18, 2010

The old pros at the counter don’t go out
anymore. They’ve had enough knuckles
cut by rope and steel and scallop shells.

Speake kindlie of no man lest he beginne
an enterprise similar to thin and prosper.

They’ve made the big money, fished when
the rip was sea smoke, shucked their
own and still were drinking by two.

Give nothing away but the time & charges,
pay for nothing on the barrel but your beere.

Now they prefer coffee and stories and
leave dawn to the young turks in layers
of vests and red beards and scowls.

Looke not to another man’s wife with lust,
lest she already hath gained a clearer visage.

They’ve got nothing to prove anymore, just
another day to check the papers for
the scores and who’s left to kick about.

Keepe holy his propertie to thy left and right
with stone: for laws fail when walls fall.

So go ahead—ask for the cream and learn
these precepts in refraction off dispensers,
in wrinkles pressed into formica.

Widelie bring another’s stupidities to light, rub
old salt on injuries. Remind, remind of losses.

For you alone are the chosen ones, you alone
were born and raised, for you alone knew when,
you alone know how they divided the land.