Issue 77, Winter-Spring 1980
They won’t come to you. These nights, you could sit for a year
on the dock behind Arthur’s Gift Shop and General Store
before you’d spot with your flashlight
a single silk-backed bather
nosing the trash fish dumped off the lobster boats,
lured to your human light from the night-black water.
Those visits, if they ever took place, ended long ago,
though the fishermen did no harm
to the silver-furred luck-bearing ones
who kept the cold caves we left and the waves no squall
spills the green-glass fullness of—
and even half-believed the old tales:
how they floated this drowner, nudged that skiff off rocks.
We bore them, perhaps. Or simply, their minds are elsewhere.
At any rate, no girl
has married their king in centuries,
no sailor learned any secret from them worth shipwreck.
And yet, as the holiday ferry
smacks its smart salt-stiffened flags in the wind
we lean like children over the side: to lee
gleams the craggy castle to which they’ve withdrawn.
Huge, simple, sleek as bronzes, they
sprawl in the sun, or powerfully dive
and surface jewelled with spray,
then lumber with heavy grace back up to their mates.
They are history less, at peace. As our boat chuffs by,
the wind fioats back fish stench
and a gabble of barks, sharp cries
that remind you of nothing but gulls or the creaking of rope.
They are no sirens, we only weekend adventurers.
Whatever their language, they are not speaking to us.