Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Living to Do

She stands at the corner of an old house,
hand outstretched to touch the cracking
shingles like shedding scales on a dying
beast, those hands which were once soft,
but now red and chapped from the sting
of chill sea water,

And her eyes have become like oceans,
watery blue in the bright morning, then
sometimes hardening to an iron gray
as the hours slip by toward twilight, and
she remembers what she wanted to be
when her bones didn’t stiffen with the
rain, and the skin of her body held
tight and close against her flesh, and
the fishermen would come around
for no reason other than to chat
timidly to her, eyes brave enough
to catch her gaze only for a moment,
hands held close against their hips,
wanting to smile at her and tell her
she’s pretty…she doesn’t feel so
pretty now, and the timid nature
of boys is a memory as distant as
the face of her father,

But there are few of those men now
living, those who would ask her to
mend their nets and lobster traps of
an evening if she had the spare time,
those rough men only half a generation
from France or Sweden and still carrying
their parents’ accent, and her hands
have long since turned to her own
traps, those few she tends at the
buoy her husband gave over when
the nosebleed hit and his eyes went
forever blank on the still surface of his
face,

And though she is tired near to death
by the time the whole string of traps is
pulled on deck, hardly able to hold the
boat’s wheel in her knotted hands, she
keeps on, for it is the traps that have to
be tended,

And then it is
the cloying, wild grass coming up over the
walk, and in fall the leaves piling deep
upon the driveway, or the old pickup
whose doors are mostly rust and which starts
without complaint only rarely, and again on
into winter, hauling the hay bales that seem to
weigh more each year and stacking them
against the foundation, shoveling coal from the
bin, striking one more match against the wet
darkness at the edge of the sea,

For there is always living to do, even long
after the burden of it grows heavy and the
easy times have passed away like the north’s
inconstant summers.

6 comments:

drthunder said...

Only one who has lived near this life could speak of them with such understanding. Beautiful! The tears rolled down my cheeks as I read it.

Mushster said...

At the end of this I found myself asking why?

Why do we have to keep on going like that. It's very much a rhetorical why of course but it does make you think.

Stranger Ken said...

For me, at least, this is brilliant and the very best poem of yours that I've read. "For there is always living to do ..." ... "it is the traps that have to be tended ...". Great lines, Firehawk, truly. The poem is anchored in the mind and heart of the woman, but it also focuses important themes and issues of poverty, suffering and struggle in a very universal way. You did something similar with Polly, but I think that this character is more fully realised and more dramatically convincing.

Firehawk said...

Doc,

Glad you liked the poem. I don't know what the common denominator is, for sure. You can't really "swing harder at the ball", only write what comes out and hope it's good.

Mush,

It's the wondering, that scribbling in the margin, that keeps us in this state of mystical darkness, always searching out and developing some unifying theme...always bound to be flawed at the fundamental level. I can't answer the question of why in any direct way. You have to do that on your own. All I can say is this: "Because it is life, and it is difficult, but better than the alternative."

Ken,

Thanks for your praise. I've had some good comments on it (outside the blogsphere, which appears to be dead or not in the mood for my stuff at this moment).

I have to say that I wrote this one with the idea that I would focus on the detail more, as you do. I'm glad that you feel that it yeilded a good result.

As always, thanks to everyone for coming over!

Bill said...

"Life goes on, long after the joy of living has gone"

This one got to me as well... Lately I too wake with sore bones, stiff hands and a body that complains at having to move again.

I hope, like her, I'll retain a bit of the joy for the living I'm doing, until that time is done.

Powerful piece my friend... definitely one of your best (that I've read) to date.

Stranger Ken said...

As I do? Maybe, but you have a voice of your own which is very clear and powerful, as if you really know where the agenda behind your writing is going, which is more than I'd say of myself.