Is hardship renewal? The cold waves
Keep coming in, little restrained
By islands offshore, where they ride
Ringed around by small, stripped-down craft.

Every lookout gazes seaward;
A whole township ignoring the signs
Nailed to walls and porches—a sale,
A July sale on houses. Mist

Rises from the lawns, stalling in the elms;
Shingle slumps, white paint scales, as though
Some genie steamed up from his oil-lamp
Had waved a fist and shouted, Collapse!

Dockside the Maritime Academy’s
Grandest classroom sits at anchor,
Drawing a cadet up the gangplank,
His face deadpan, like the face

Of the infantryman a century
At ease on the green, forward inclined,
Granite rifle by his side.
No attention paid. Each citizen

Is visibly minding his business
Even when, reflexively, he
Barks out an “Afternoon”
To others on foot, who nod and pass.

What high, stinging whine gives it away—
That all, the most skeptical,
The most assured, are expecting news?
Word may come with the fog; cocooned

In a morning paper; or brought by the stranger:
Something else that must be borne….
Briny droplets tingle in suspension;
The screen door of the general store

Reliably slams behind the postman,
Who stops, squints, tips back his cap,
To catch, where it has broken through,
The pallor of the northern sun.

This Issue

April 3, 1980