Mackerel Sky Elegy
At anchor near the silky brown verge of a tidal mudflat, I do not seem to pose a
threat to the Great Blue Heron stalking the shallows. It is alert to my small
movements in the cockpit—I smooth a wind-lifted page, raise and lower
binoculars—yet it displays an almost studied lack of concern.
So too, as I tack past the green can in Falmouth Foreside’s teeming harbor, the
osprey in its unkempt nest; mottled harbor seals on ledges drying in the
retreating tide; the solitary loon. Nothing startles. Even when I slip off the boat at
sunset and swim toward a raft of terns, there is no consternation, no flight.
I sail into Harpswell Harbor. On the chart this piece of the Maine coast looks like
a mackerel sky: striated, mysterious. I have never been here, by land or sea, yet
I feel an inexplicable sadness.
At the funeral, men with cropped silver hair and flecked beards told stories about
that summer place. How they gave each other nicknames and drank good wine
and smoked fine cigars. Oh, how they laughed. How they remembered you.
From this vantage, anchored in the very cove you and your friends must have
overlooked from a porch on warm foggy evenings long after you and I had
anything left to say to one another, I can almost see you, as if through a screen.
In profile. Cigarette in one hand, snifter in the other. Holding forth. You seem at
ease, even happy. Then suddenly, peripherally, you notice me. Momentarily
taken aback, the surface of your composure fractures like moonlight on a windy
bay. But you neither turn nor move away. You must sense that I’m only here for
this evening with no intention of startling. And I…
This must be why I have come. To say goodbye.
“Mackerel Sky Elegy” first appeared in Rivendell, Issue 2. Vol 1.