Timbers heaving to heaven we sailed at seven
With bait aboard wet so sliced for smell,
Gurnards stinking, guts cut and skewered,
And our faces still fresh from the bundled bed.
We sailed alone and silent in the light of morning
From harbor shelter and a three-sided bell.
Saw the wind yawn to stretch skin over water,
Cough the white gossip, clot, into silence.
Sun over water. Sea sick with color.
And hungry the gull with her turrow turrow
Gathered an escort of gliding white hulls.
Cherry-splashed beaks plunged heads into water,
Slit-beak smiles spread morning’s laughter.
They, and the rudder, looked for our market
And by all the braille signs we found the stall.
There we circled staring at landscape, waiting
For the tide to be well and truly in. Now sea domestic
Broke skin for marker, and there the flagstick rose.
We stood by the wheelhouse where spray was spitting
And lifted the black sheath onto the mizzen
Cupped up to heaven, steady for direction,
We cut our engine and steered with sail.
Soon the blue fullness laid out its carpet
In continual cadence of floor, wall, floor.
Silently we came forward, now weaving, now sliding,
Slow as a boxer with hands cautious in rhythm,
Pulling a rope’s strength and wetness aboard.
And while we were heaving, now, to horizon,
The winch kept turning as a potter’s wheel:
Rope swung dripping, ourselves waiting. What lodger
Within prison wire, turned chimney, inside?
The first cage broke angry out of its grievance.
Craw, Craw, was shouted in simple alphabet
(a Craw for a Crayfish: a Blue for a Lobster).
Words of children, all sound and color,
Formed a sweated sentence with a hard-worked verb.
After the first, the others filled spaces:
Of Craw empty, Blue empty, and sometimes Crab.
Nervous jewels of color, now covered, now hidden.
As cage changed to parlor and prepared to receive
The new bait, now hanging, so silent by chimney.
While still in that rhythm the pots went over
Side, to foam pulling, depth, under bubbles
Stretching ropes straightened, behind us, dove.
And there we left them for tomorrow’s tide.
Returning we let rudder find fast its direction
And running as a hurdler, we rose, up and over.
Oak ribs to water keeled back those tons.
Shuddering we shot on, sometimes to heaven.
And land goes with us walking
In shapes the shadows formed. Where stone pierced bone
The earth made windows. Who watched our homecoming.