Salvage Star

Salvage Star, GS and Rosa Lee, Gloucester, Massachusetts
© 2004 by Ellin Anderson



Ellin Anderson

I.  Dusk

Wrapped in a soft sea-haze the wind has peppered
with flies and blown sand,
the white sun forms a pearl.
Then, falling back down
into the late-day sky's
upwelling bed of mackerel cloud,
she nods off, hides her head, as if to say,
“Bye, folks, you’re on your own.”
But when the pumping storm begins to brag
in its revolving monotone,
“I’m going to kick your tires for you,”
I can shoot back, “I’ve seen all this before.”
There’s movement in the water,
there are voices off shore.
Storm-hungry souls
dance to the spreading surf,
huffing a gaze of salt. They look and look.
One has a tripod, a mother and child to snap.
A single shoe floats up, and I think of the man
who met his only maker here last night.
He trotted back and forth, nimbly as we,
then, suddenly,
he found himself sucked out five hundred feet
and fifty fathoms down!

This weather can rewrite a barrier beach
as shadows write the light.

Insect-veils drape the reeds,
while busy swallows pivot in the heat.
Meanwhile, in town,
the market swarms with eager folks
hoarding breadloaves, candles and water.
The gulls fly funny.  Someone’s tossed them badly.

They wobble like frisbees over the circling cars,
laze in midair, like gyroscopes on wires,
or sit and freeze,
til someone drops her groceries.

Wandering, I watch while men remove
the parliament of chairs beside the pool.
The air’s sweat-thick.
Tomorrow the yard will be an Escher trick:
patched sky and detritus, the wet wind’s map.
Say your goodnights now,
and hunt out some safe lap —
Any storm means darkness for somebody.

II.  Night

Laughing hammer,
whose gut have you thrown us into
that this house trembles so?
Do anvils need to know the things you know?
We will lie together in darkness, whole and pure,
the dead, the living, and those who aren’t sure —
the false love, the unrequited love —
while lightning flickers on in sullen sheets.
I remember holding this one and that one
up to the light, so briefly, saying,
“There's nothing there,” or, “That one is too small.”
Boys’ birthdays with blue tapers;
cold fire from marsh vapor
True one, I want to watch you douse them all.

Searching for this storm’s beat, I force the door,
but find it has no teeth, only the wind reading
the soft braille of the leaves, and the spirit-breathing
of trees caught up, like me, in this calm eye
that lets the candles’ milk seep through thick glass
and conjure silhouettes on the wet grass.

Lawns crackle with live cables, their blue-orange blossoms
snaking throats of fire, live paradise-birds that hiss.
Who am I, please?  What whirring year is this?
In '65, one dynamo went down
and snuffed out our whole jewelry-stick night,
wiping the East Coast into its own right blackness;
a silent rag swept slates of hours clean
from Maine southwards and back again:
shock therapy for our whole needful street.
The TV was off, for once,
and my mother made us pray Jesus Mary Joseph
the Russians hadn’t attacked.  I prayed they had —
Bringer of storms, you've always been my friend:
you’ve hidden whole chalk alphabets for me,
and faded them in again.

III.  Morning

The white waves rip in sheets,
tearing up drafts of something.
Our garnetty sand wears cream, and the silver surf
flicks all the sequins its many bodies can hold.
Those shoulders balance worlds of bubbled gold.
Morning’s at port, windy and mussel-blue —
and there’s the drowned man, putting on his shoe!
He's pruny and half-choked.
“Let’s have a drink,” he says. “Or would you like to smoke?
What do you do, anyway?”
I lean over him and say:

“I linger here through every wandering storm,
Staring through the hot spray, into the salt-crowned scrape and reach
Of the spilling waves, waiting for the blood-tanged undertow
To carol through the sound for me, echo from rolling echo.
I huddle here to net the moment when
The thunderclouds rising from the fires on this beach
Conceal the light that fades me in again.”


© 2001 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved. No part of  this work may be copied or used in any way without written  permission from the author.


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