The Weathervanes

Polished by offshore, sand-pocked winds,
they leered up from a backdrop of bay: swordfish
and salmon, the whale, its tin ball of spume.
Up the hill toward the meadows,
each flickered its household's obsession:
the fisherman's cod, the dairyman's Guernsey,
the goose perched high on the quilt maker's shakes.
And the sloop, the trembling canoe, the rooster,
sheep, all taut on their off-center spindles, all turned

from the bay. In my attic room I watched them,
and my neighbor's metal silhouette -- horse
and carriage, driver, whip, two tiny reins
like filaments. It gleamed with a copper urgency:
ears back, mane back, the horse in perpetual gasp,
in the swimmer's perpetual reach and stroke,
the man stiff-set from speed and longing,
from that tremor just over the human heart.
And down the steep hill from their carriage,

the static parade of fins and wings.
Sometimes an onshore wind would flip them,
all in one motion, back toward the sea.
Sometimes I would look to my neighbor's window,
past the yard with his living gabble of geese,
through the russet-cast hush of his parlor.
He held his cello as a sheepshearer would,
knees clamped on the body, left hand crossing
a fret of ribs, bearing down at last
on the pressure point, just over the darkened heart.
He would stop in the utter stillness a moment,
shape over shadow. Then his right arm
stretched to its seesaw journey.
And then the thrumming song.

The Atlantic Monthly; August 1996; The Weathervanes; Volume 278, No. 2; page 74.

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