Poems April 2000
i.m. Paul Wood, d. 1999
By midday, gouts of fog
sock in until
we almost think the weather means some harm,
the way it spills over the harbor. Gauzy,
a trawler on its mooring
sputters close to home.
A level calm.
Seams smoothed, the clouded archway shadowless:
our view lacks eye-holds, like the papered set
of a photo shoot, merely
figure and ground.
This morning, as we slept,
his boat was found
grinding in circles somewhere near the reach.
A fisherman came on it stymied there,
recrossing in the spume
of its own wake, its wheelhouse
ghostly, its course
a ring by Titian charcoaled in the sea.
We knew his name. And when it made the news
the dust of pickups rose
to clog the road:
men set out dragging rigs
had yanked up heavy, bruised with mussel shells,
Phoenician purples clustered in a fist.
Today, they’re hoisted limp—
a heartache and relief.
One snarled clue:
some fouled line sliced from a sinking trap.
Had it jerked him in a whip-crack overboard,
strength sapped as he flailed
to loose his boat?
Now shoals of mackerel lash
in running shallows,
each silver leap skyward through glass survived.
Down on the point, a few last headlights glare,
then swing wide, then go.
I have come to the shore
to clean a pail,
while you close out the damp in half-lit rooms.
A year ago, we married near this spot,
where four white pine trees stare
over the bay.
All week, his wife can watch
hope’s half-life split
daily until the hour she knows he’s gone.
But for now: she looks on as he swims
ashore—“he’s strong, you know?”—
chokes breath on sand … No sign.
Word goes round,
as stories of near-misses start in town:
“Remember in the south, that killing gale?
After a second night,
with the helm
an icy sledgehammer
whanging my ribs,
I leaned down to your mother, who for days
could not look at the waves as high as roofs.
‘We’ll die out here,’ I told her,
letting the tiller go;
‘I’m so damn tired … ’
The wind was through with us two hours later.
Half-sunk, we made land under perfect skies,
boys out hauling nets
struck by the sun.”
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 18 Number 8, on page 36
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