Crossing to Chebeague: December in Casco Bay
For Anne Porter
Driven for once below deck, I watch
as the snow spins down, squint
at pines in the distance: the thaw
is a long way off. A little smoke leaks
from the houses. The water fills with snow.
The cabin smells of diesel fuel
and wool. These, then, are the islands
from which you launch your life:
actual fishermen glancing, thinking stranger.
I think of you crossing this water
before school every year,
of your father bringing back groceries
dressed in his big gray coat.
From Japan you send me paper
pale as a luna moth’s wing,
stamps with warblers, a card
with a tiny deer. All I can read
are the numbers, you write
from Kashiwa. I get very tired of using
only the smallest words: ‘Japan
is a good country; Japanese people
are nice.’ There are goats across the street
that I stop to talk to each morning.
They eat their fill from gardens devoted
to radishes and green tea. The engine heaves
through the water. Which of these islands
is yours? We scrape past houses built
at the edge of a cliff. One road rings
the island. Your whole house smells of books.
The stairs to the attic pull down by a string.
We cut the tree in the evening, talk on your narrow bed.
I sleep near the woodstove, wake when the fire
goes cold. In the morning, sun comes slanting
into an old red chair. I dream you are curled
and reading, there where the windows
face south. This is our ration, I tell you, your dark
hair made more dark. Ration of sunlight, spent
in a sun-starved place.
“Crossing to Chebeague: December in Casco Bay” is from Undertow (Persea Books, 2007), and first appeared in The Cresset, Lent 2002.