Poetry Porch: Poetry


by Richard Dey

Arrival, Allen Island

It was to get off the farm —
            the strawberries gone, the rabbit dead,
            the boughs overburdened with apples —
that you have come here under sail,
                            come here hoping for . . .

but you’re glad enough to get at masthead
a glimpse of stars in an unspoiled sky,
            never mind a fiery revelation;

to get in the roll of the boat at anchor
            in a gut where you do not go ashore,
a good night’s sleep,
            never mind a renewal of passion;

to feel on getting up in surroundings free
                            of the usual trappings,
            not the rush of a plan for Arthurian action,
but a peace in you rising like the rose-streaked dawn,
            a peace that is a kind of clarity,

clarity being a feature of this place,
like granite, fir, fog, meadow, and tide.

Copyright © 2016 by Richard Dey.

Island Meadow

A grassy slope, not without boulders,
defined by surrounding tall pines
and the granite shoreline the sloping falls to,
with maybe a barn and a skiff
or a tractor parked in the shade —
this is a meadow on Penobscot Bay,
an interruption in the islandscape,
a lushness along an unforgiving coast.

The grasses sway and kindle brown
and yellow, colors muted by salt air
and fog. What scent is that, what longing?
Queen Anne’s Lace, Loosestrife, and Lupine
sing now on summer’s stage before,
come Fall, they cringe at the coming scythe.

Copyright © 2016 by Richard Dey.

The Making of a Maine Artist

Eric caught his first fish
when he was three or four,
the story goes.
He thought it was beautiful
but his father, who towered over
the fish lying stiff and drab
in the bilge, said: “Nah,
it’s just another dead fish,
Eric. See?”
                  They steamed home,
through Fox Thorofare.
On reaching North Haven,
Eric took the fish
into the boat shed
and painted it (using colors
used for painting pot buoys)
to recapture the fish
and present it to his mother.
His mother was grateful
but after a couple of days
the fish smelled like a fish
and she threw it out.
To Eric, however,
that first fish was
the most beautiful thing
he had ever seen,
so he drew a picture of it,
to preserve it.

And then there is the other story,
the one Eric Hopkins doesn’t tell
the casual visitor in the gallery
that was the family boatshed,
the one about how
he came to see the islands
with an aerial perspective,
to see Island Earth
often in bold swift strokes of color,
bright or pale, broad
against the flat curving horizon
on a canvas without edges.
He was ten when his brother, five,
fell off the dock and drowned,
carried off in the tide racing
among the spider-leg pilings.
Can you imagine, on an island
of daily seaward reckoning,
how terrible this was? How familiar?
Distraught, Eric was
given the usual information
about the Lord but with the twist
that his brother had gone to Heaven
there, over the islands, in the sky.
Eric didn’t know what to make
of the piety, but when next spring
his father built a kite and they flew it
from a North Haven pasture,
Eric says he felt “the pull of Heaven.”
Figuring that if he flew enough
he’d find his brother, he’s been flying
in planes over Fox Thorofare,
looking for him, ever since —
and incidentally painting what he sees,
this side of the horizon’s edge.

Copyright © 2016 by Richard Dey.

About Cruising

      For my son, Alex

When, at summer’s end, I left the schooner,
I carried in my bag a lobster pot buoy,
wooden and painted (the one now in the garage),
and I have been collecting things like it,

or writing poems for much the same purpose,
ever since. Little has changed, really,
about cruising. The excitement and expectation
of going, restlessly, from place to place,

and the peace found at anchor in good harbors
is much the same, despite the many boats,
as well as the instinct seamanship calls forth
in the face of unexpected trouble or danger.

That and, on going home, the hard confusion,
yes, the sense of yourself no longer one
in one place but in two — and what is this
but the Odyssean tug of land with sea?

Copyright © 2016 by Richard Dey.