Dayley Island

Frederick Seidel

Gulls spiral high above
The porch tiles and my gulf-green,
Cliff-hanging lawn, with their
Out-of-breath wail, as
Dawn catches the silver ball
Set in the dried up bird bath
To scare the gulls. My slippers
Exhale lamé.

I was egged on by old age—
To sell that house,
Winterize this house,
Give up my practice… that
You, Pauli, gave up
At Belzec, our son at Belsen,
And one at Maidenek,
Our last at Maidenek.

Below the cliff, the shallows
Tear apart, beating
Themselves white and black,
While the sea’s smooth other edge
Towers, reddening,
Over the surfacing sun.
I rise early, always,
Earlier each day…

Holding on.
But it’s the island that’s locked in
By the sea—a case
Of vaginismus, Pauli—
Except for the one bridge
To the next island. I’m free—
Dayley’s first once Jewish,
Non-practicing analyst:

Old, but she has no helper;
Station-wagon, but
She’s not a tourist; poor for
An island Venus or matron.
The man who sells me fish
Says he fought my Nazis,
The captured ones talked
Just like me—I’m somebody.

Last week—March-cold
In the middle of August,
Snow-blue, high, thin skies—
I drove the hour to Brunswick
To drop my suits at
Maine’s Only Chinese Laundry,
A down-easter’s,
With a Negro presser.

The man was just then off
For Hagard to shoot rabbits
For the reward,
Three miles off Dayley’s east shore.
Years before,
A mainlander
Had loosed two white rabbits
There; now it was theirs.

Frail, pink-veined, pale ears,
And pink as perfect gums,
Pink eyes, rose noses, as if
Diseased—I’d been there.
The lead-gray Yankee owner,
After the shotgun blast,
Strode forward, gathered the bunch,
And one by one, grabbed each

By its hind legs while it sobbed,
And swinging it against
The bare lawn, slapped it dead,
And swung it to the shrubs.
I left the cleaners wanting
So to tell you. The sun’s
Well up now. Our blue carpet’s
Fading evergreen, Pauli.

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