Menemsha Bight

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.

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