V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





No one strolls by.  Wind blows
and tides roll wide across the dunes.
Miles of condos dare the hurricanes,
homes that tumble down like sand.
Couples holding hands hike by, widows,
families with dogs.  Puff clouds

miles away could be gunfire, and were
when U-boats sank freighters in 1942.
As a boy in World War II, I skipped flat rocks
on ponds, nothing else for boys to do,
big brothers shipping out, mothers
biting their lips, our fathers looking off

and coughing.  Out past the Outer Banks,
four centuries of ships went down, hundreds
of masts and hulls reduced to scuba brochures.
And still they sink, trawlers hull-deep
in troughs, freighters from Singapore
and Spain, trusting lighthouse and sonar.

Grandfather fished for flounder, croaker, drum,
his beachfront house no bigger than the shack
the Wright boys hung hammocks in at Kitty Hawk.
Grandmother heard a clatter of pistons, but guessed
it was only their glider crashing again,
and didn't watch.  She huddled at night in the cold,

December wind so loud she heard the devil at the door,
ripping the roof.  Storms made her fear flying
forever.  She grieved for me in pilot training,
hanging a Gold Star already in her heart.
She believed I'd crash, cursed wild Ohio boys
who tinkered with wings and rudders, nothing safe

at Kill Devil Hills, not even the water
Grandfather fished, his rod bent double with mullet,
supper for children forever hungry.  All year,
he brought home oysters and sea trout, conchs
and starfish as toys, until the sudden December storm
when his trawler and a dozen other boats went down.

© by Walt McDonald


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