Streets fumble down to the harbor
and collapse panting at the piers.
The fleet has sailed for the banks,
leaving the pleasure boats bobbing
in the bath-warm inner basin.
Although fisheries are dying,
the stink will last forever.
Olson stumbles from his lair
to chat me up, a drifting tourist
lost in literary ambitions.
Padding around Fort Square past
the Good Harbor Fillet plant,
leaving Ten Pound Island adrift
in our mental rear-view mirrors,
we split our silence between us.
Taller, even shyer than me,
he peers up and down Main Street,
hoping for something historic
he can warp into his text.
The slop of little waves, the white
hulls of the whale-watch ships,
the famous painter’s stone house
glooming on its lawn suggest
that the acres of books he’s read
will remain safely anchored
to the place prized above places.
A few years from now, cancer
will enmesh and unbutton him,
rumpling a stratum of tissue
thicker than the volcanic bedrock
underlying most of Cape Ann.
But today we climb from the harbor
to visit his old friend’s bookshop
dozing behind dusty windows
in a sleep of purest innocence.
Then coffee at a café studded
with retired fishermen smoking,
laughing off a bottomless fear
endorsed by a thousand storms.
He withholds nothing. But later,
when I’ve driven back to Boston,
he strokes his chin and wonders
when the harbor will drain itself,
leaving him and everything he loves
to the pick, pick, pick of gulls.