–Winter, Wellfleet, 2008
Sweet carcass of an ark, the past’s oaken belly— what the sands had buried a storm uncovered high on Newcomb Hollow beach; a hull, round wooden pegs, tool marks that tell its serious age, ribs like the bony cage of a Great White whale, washed up on the shoals a decade after the Civil War, a schooner, archaeologists say, converted to a barge— they think she carried coal up the Atlantic coast from an impoverished postwar South, coal that washed ashore on the outer Cape to the hardscrabble townspeoples’ shivering relief. In a few weeks, they’re sure the tides will resettle her, she’ll be washed back out to sea or she’ll merge again, fill with the coarse sands shifting beneath your feet. Homely, heavy, sea-scoured, why should she seem a venerable thing, spiritual, why should you long to touch her, to stretch out under the March sun in the long smooth silvery frame of a cradle or curl like an orphaned animal on the hand-cut planks and caress the marks, the trunnels, with your mittened paws? Is it that she hints much yet tells little of the souls lost with her, the mystery of survival, the depths she’s travelled? Has she heard the music on the ocean floor, instrumentation of Mantis Shrimp, the bong bong of Humming Fish? Why does the day, all blues and greys, feel transcendental? She’s a remnant, a being almost completely effaced, yet to you still resonant—can anything this gone be consecrated? Experts have examined the braille of her hull, weighed the evidence, and they declare, It’s another secret the ocean burped up, nothing but a blip, a brief reappearance, once rowdy, rough with purpose, now not even a container, holding nothing, revealing nothing....But aren’t you also a singular secret Nature burped up, hurled flailing into the air from the start, hungry for light, holding onto whatever buoys you, alive, kicking, even when you know you’re going down?