V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





The Kingstown Snapper, legendary mailboat÷all
things to all people
like magical Coat-of-Many-Colors÷
comes chugging into Union
Isle's Harbor.
It's the fabled gateway,
the lucky travellers dispersed over
three deck levels, their eyes
aglitter as they stand on the verge
of the New Life, the New World.
From downisles & upisles
they come, twice-weekly, on this crowded boat

of many stops,
Ark of many deliveries:
it's their PASSKEY to the Mecca
of Free Port shopping and bartering...
This excursion's their best chance of the week,
month, year to enter another
wave of feeling,
a wider scope than home base:
where it's at, so their glistening teeth
& quivering nostrils
bespeak!  And I'm riding this wave of new dream
with them, having trudged my way
on unbowed slow sea legs
up the spiral

stairwell, looming upon deck after deck; now I
reach the topmost level,
a tiny circular disc affording
footrooom for only three
of us at once.
Teetering three-stories-high
over the traffic-giddy sea lanes, I
survey the incoming yachts,
sail-masted vessels
and speedboats
beetling around our sluggard course,
zigzagging and crisscrossing
ahead of our prow.  We could be standing still.

I check out
the Captain's shrunk upper
quarters adjacent to my roost÷
the Great Wheel spins on air, no hand
to guide or control it: sloops and schooners
cutting across our path, but no one
at the steering
post to dodge or outmaneuver
that manic fleet of ships bearing down
on the harbor buoys
reducing them to so many wobbly useless pegs
in the peg board of wild coastal
interchange... Zowee, I yowl
at the nearest

deckhand. Nobody's at the helm, we'll crack up,
what gives?...  Look again,
says he, but lower.  I raise myself
to tiptoe, and stare down
at tousled locks
of the towhead poised erect
under the steerage, half as tall or less
from top to toe than the wheel
that he absently plies
with the pinkie
of his left hand, eluding all streams
of harbor cross-traffic
and swerving to skirt many a near miss.  Always,

he comes up
smiling after a lethal
close call. He's the Captain's
ten-year-old son, the deckmate tells me
with unruffled aplomb.  He navigates the Union
Isle approaches with never a least
mishap.  Skipper
trusts tiny Max at the controls,
as no one else...  And even as he speaks,
young Maxie surges
into a new high vantage, his whole torso thrust
upon the wheel to swerve left, thereby
to avert a drunk yachtman's
beeline charge

into our hull at midship...  Suddenly Cap Rudolf
looms up tall behind him,
khaki-suited, all one faded beige hue
from collar to pants cuffs.
He seems triple
his son's height.  Does he step near
to spell young Max, if the clash & frazzle
of sea traffic gets the upper
hand?  No Way!  Cap floats
his open palm
over junior's bangs...  He could retire
today, the Snapper's future
squared away in that paternal slouch of shoulder.


© by Laurence Lieberman


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