Thursday, September 28, 2017

Olson in Gloucester

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.

Friday, August 25, 2017

In the Wash of the Solar Eclipse

You want to know how I feel
in the wash of the solar eclipse?
Walking by the marsh I’m sure
the crickets are onto something.

Their song becomes more brittle
as sunlight fades and shadows
lose their edges. I feel like
joining their chorus, but rubbing

my legs together for sound
has never worked well, even
when wearing corduroy trousers,
so I’ll remain as silent as snow.

You want to know if doubts
about the depth of the universe
and the time lapse of galaxies
ruffle my dreams of women

lurching around on horseback
or sifting heaps of pages torn
from the world’s cruelest scriptures.
No, but last night I dreamt

that you asked my wife to bake
a cake that was evenly moist
with no raw spots in the middle.
Yes, I know you’re my wife

and also an expert baker,
but the threat of the eclipse
shaped this dream. What threat?
The loss of faith in sky gods?

Worry that the moon will stick
to the sun and extinguish it?
The dark surfs over the sky
with a stark and deep indifference                                    

that for a moment hushes
the crickets. Stars wink and blink,
out too early. I feel too small
to inhabit this expanded space;

but as the moment passes and light
ebbs back into our life I almost
taste the lovely cake you baked
to feed both my ego and id.