FT. WARREN, GEORGES ISLAND

Though still blinking after our half hour  
across the cloudless noontime harbor, we blundered ashore,
braced by handrails, toward a dark three or four flights––
then back outside to glazed Union cannon in the thick of grasses shifting, tall and
golden-tasseled,
at updrafts off the beach.  Atop great walls the paths ran to salients
from which we looked, far and wide,
for viridian shoals around coastal rocks.
Later, you sprawled to my left, veiled by glare, while nearly beyond reach
on a counterpane even then just threads at the edges.

In that hour it seemed enough calm had passed from hand to hand
that somehow we might survive another Boston winter,
cast like revenants through a crisscross
of passageways, stations, and iron gates.
I remember it poured for months––from dawn to nightfall a cold light streaming
past the clouds into our rooms, our storm-window stares.

Yet in that hour when you lay face down on the grass
high over wide waves and shells dropped to the rocks by gulls,
we were innocents from a myth that would bear fruit so long as there arose,
concurrently within us, the ache
to restore our lives to childhood springs, buoyant but deep-cleft, ––
since these remained times of spoiling empire,
when every tented nation had been fashioned into a bulwark, a foggy
slave ship,
or field teeming with graves.

In that hour of distant shouts and bells the wind held an intimated prayer;
and to wake up to the chase of gulls, the foam-erupting sea, and those few
marigolds flaring like coals against a brittle chimney,
was to see as children in a circle of surprise.

There, a nearby flake-toting bug could suggest some hero bearing an honor
homeward
because it had crept from the hour’s unforeseen
bodying forth wonders before us at each turn.  And that speck with spindly legs
feeling its way over a path of flagstones,
that intricate, impulsive presence, could seem to show
even it unwittingly took on a mission to live and die and delight those, like us,
with defenses surrendered to ways outside the limits––
because such ways (far from the bidding or beatings taken)
had led back to common ground, the surge that rolls without end,  
and the extravagant hour at hand.

***

Jeffrey Grinnell’s poetry has been published recently in The Wisconsin Review, Literary Review, New York Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Evansville Review, The Texas Review, Lillies and Cannonballs, Colere, and Spillway. For several years Grinnell hosted poetry readings in Palo Alto at La Dolce Vita Restaurant and then Art 21 Gallery.

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