Poetry Porch: Poetry


From Out of Westport Point
by Richard Dey

List of poems:

    Dinghies at a Dock
    by Richard Dey

    Two & three deep, nudging one another,
    squeaking, squealing, creaking,
    the gunnel of one riding up over the gunnel of another,
    yanking screws, tearing the gunnel fender;
    two & three deep, pulling at their painters as the wake
    of a passing boat lifts them, quakes
    their very dinginess, discombobulates
    the pack of them, causing them to smack
    one another and generally mash-up,
    separating then bringing them back together,
    even as wind & tide confuse them, rascals
    at bay, the dinghies crowd the dock
    waiting purpose, direction
    like my dim thoughts first thing each day.

    (Copyright © 2015 by Richard Dey)
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    by Richard Dey

    In that position with her decks awash
    as if her heart were broken, she has no name
    nor class. When did she last hear “Hard-
    a-lee!”? What owner would his charge so disclaim?

    The jib flies shredded, the main with but one stop.
    Rudder, tiller, paddle—these are missing;
    bucket, sponge, floor boards, a cap,
    & sheets uncoiled are all that’s left for stealing.

    Small miracle she floats upright at all,
    tell-tails streaming, mooring pennant secure,
    that vandals have not looted her
    or trucked her in the night to Mackinaw.

    Isn’t it odd that boatyard workers don’t care,
    that sailors passing, pass by & stare?

    (Copyright © 2015 by Richard Dey)
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    Paddling Home
    by Richard Dey

    It’s not supposed to be this way, of course.
    You figure home by five before the wind
    lets go, the gnats arrive. But you sailed further than
    you’d planned & now it’s late, the tide outgoing.

    At first you managed in the dying air
    by shifting your weight & shifting without motion,
    keeping a lee bow, staying outside
    the wind shadow, working the eddies.
    You skimmed the squiggle with an inch to spare

    only to find, and with the mooring in sight,
    the wind had died. Died. Not a breath of air.
    You were becalmed, fit to be tied. And thirsty!
    The boat was going backwards. Anchoring
    would get you nowhere. What to do?

    Not for nothing do you store a paddle.
    But paddling a sailboat is like pushing
    a Lincoln Continental out of gas,
    your shoulder to the door frame & hand on the wheel.
    You huff & puff & curse but don’t give up,
    fueled by what you saw, or thought you knew:

    not Paradise Island but a New Atlantis
    looming in the haze like Vegas in
    the desert or Dubai on shifting sands,
    immortal on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge;
    where along wide palm-lined avenues
    fragrant with frangipani Trade Wind swept,
    rise skyscrapers of luminous design,
    each balcony a garden turning with
    the sun & gardeners,
                                      the men & women
    in their dark moods & bright, turning with them,
    one with the surrounding land & sea;
    where poets stand among the senators,
    brokering bills for beauty & transcendence,
    and there is wealth for all & love without
    borders, & a T-wharf hosting spaceships . . .

    Even now, paddling for all you’re worth,
    salt stings your eyes, blinking with Atlantis.
    But on the porch you’ll drink with friends and laugh
    and say, Oh, it was just one of those days.

    (Copyright © 2015 by Richard Dey)
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    by Richard Dey

    The autumn day was fair, the wind nor’west,
    the tide high & falling, and we—the boat
    and I—were tacking smartly across the channel,
    north toward home, when the gust struck.
    It was like other gusts—you could see it coming—
    it did not look like a gleam in Neptune’s eye.
    The boat was beamy, stiff, a stable platform,
    and I was hiked out way to windward, sure
    of my sense for the wind’s weight, the hull’s hold.
    To spill the wind I did not slack the sheet
    until—up, up, and O–VER—it was too late
    and there to leeward, was my pride awash
    in a Hell’s tangle of lines & spars & cloth,
    and the boat disgusted, saying “I told you so!”

    (Copyright © 2015 by Richard Dey)
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    What It Was
    by Richard Dey

    A pram, she was some sweet to row
    it was good to go between
    the dock & boat in her
    but you didn’t have to be going anywhere
    to enjoy her, you could just row
    or maneuver her
    the better to position her
    at the still point between
    forward & back
    or you could idle
    with the oars upraised
    their wet blades gleaming in the warm sun

    At day’s end, you pulled her up
    & overturned her on the float
    tying the painter to a ring
    and when you walked away from her
    & saw two red flags flat-out
    against the sky lowering
    heard their snapping
    you knew what it was
    you wanted never to lose

    (Copyright © 2015 by Richard Dey)
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    The Relic
    by Richard Dey

    No one was in the office when I went to ask after
    boats like her, which had been built there decades ago,
    so I went for a walk around the boatyard,
    between Tripps’ sheds and behind them,
    to the backside of the dunes and it was there I saw her,
    abandoned, in the sand and scrub,
    like a skeleton surfaced in its grave.

    I couldn’t believe my luck.
    I had come to Westport to meet someone
    who’d written about these skiffs,
    smaller, recreational versions of work skiffs
    used on the river for quahoging and scalloping.
    Easy and cheap to build, these 12-footers
    were flat-bottomed, with an unstayed cat rig
    and leg-o’-mutton sail, and safe as a Schwinn.

    “She’s yours for the taking,” a Tripp said
    when finally I found a Tripp,
    “else she’s bound for the dumpster.”
    Even as she was, derelict, you could see her sweet sheer,
    and how could I let her die in a town dump?
    After strapping her together,
    I loaded the relic into my pickup and headed home
    to the marshlands, creeks, and tidal flats of ’Squam
    where the skiff, though too far gone
    to restore, would find an afterlife.

    You won’t want to hear the details about
    how I took her measurements, took her apart,
    made patterns from her every piece,
    then built new strakes, frames, stem, transom . . .
    Of course I did some things differently—
    the fastenings are bronze, not galvanized.

    She’s a delight to sail, as my kids now know,
    besting the channel tide in an eddy, skimming
    over the marsh on a falling tide
    with the wind astern and a song in her strakes.
    Being six feet four and fifty pounds heavier
    than the skiff, well . . . I take my chances
    in something of a different sort.

    (Copyright © 2015 by Richard Dey)
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    The Uninsured
    by Richard Dey

    Columbus Day has come & gone
    & Ishmael is Ichabod again
    The harbor hangs on the winter wall
    like a cupboard empty except for

    the sloop set for a dash to Martinique
    the ketch poised for the Panama Canal
    a sportfisherman shortly to sprint for the Keys
    a schooner not to be left behind

    And come Xmas, the New Year
    where will they be, the boats
    & their owners who can’t afford the premiums
    or don’t believe in them—

    which where they were, safe
    & which on the beach, frames caved in
    & which at sea, lost
    & which tied up to a palm tree?

    (Copyright © 2015 by Richard Dey)
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    Mooring Spars
    by Richard Dey

    Oak or pine & six feet long,
    four-by-four inches square,
    pressure-treated, through-bolted hung,
    replacing summer’s plastic spheres,

    spars mark the moorings—radiators
    or engine blocks, mushroom anchors,
    rocks, a bathtub filled with cement,
    the coffin of an undead parent.

    Heavy chain connects them, nothing
    ice or hunger or a grudge
    could cut, saw, gnaw, or budge.
    Barnacles to their links are clinging.

    Athwart the wind, against the tide
    that toys with them, they ride, they ride.

    (Copyright © 2015 by Richard Dey)
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