Skaters of Corea Harbor
The harbor seldom freezes. When it does
Only the hollow-boned gulls on their webbed
Feet can enjoy the thin, brittle ice. Men
In heavy boots and layers of wool break
Through if they are so foolish as to try.
Instead they wait for calm November dawns
Like today, when the boats float on the sky.
They wait and then they skate in wooden skiffs
From their wharves to their fishing boats, stroking
Across the icy calm with long wooden
Oars, the smooth sanded edges, sanded by
The sea, cutting clean glassy tracks that swirl
As if a skater had stopped to twirl. Once
I saw a man with one leg skate by,
Or, I should say, he stood in his skiff
Propelling it with a single oar.
As graceful as any skater born and raised
In the north, he glided by strokes to where
His boat was moored. They do not know I watch
Them skate with their oars and. their flat-bottomed
Skiffs, leaving whirlpools in ice; just as I
Did not know when I first ventured on ice
That it’s not ice we skate on when we skate
On ice. It’s water that comes from the blade
Pressing down, melting a thin track
So we float as we stroke.
Thawing the ice, we sail.
Skaters of Corea Harbor first appeared in Friends of Acadia, Vol.4, #3.
Poem, copyright © 2005 by Douglas Woodsum
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse