We didn’t have much back then. Tell the
Truth, we still don’t, not like people on the
Mainland. We were isolated, at times, we’re
Still separated, especially when winter sets in,
A kind of cold that few know, maybe up in
Halifax or St. John’s, they know what it’s
About. That’s how life began and ended on
Rugged Isle au Haut, Maine.
I remember Papa, weathered face, flickering
Lantern light, impressions engrained forever
On a child’s mind. Men reckoning with one
More winter fishing trip to Spoon and Horse
Islands, barren buttons on nautical charts,
Too desolate and distant for over-wintering
Hunting camps, gales and blowing snow,
Burnt Island Thoroughfare turned to ice.
Five men did not come back, grief-ravaged
Families on desperate of Isle au Haut. Hard
Fists on cabin doors, lantern lights at win-
Dows, crying voices at cold hearths. We knew
Then. When slush forms, no one can return,
Only steel-hull steamboats, not Papa’s sailing
Skiff, not with heavy winds and shipping
Waves pushing them down the coast.
Five men lost may not seem like much, but
Back then, only twenty were on the island,
Fathers, brothers off to war, the few left to
Brave coastal waters, tending lobster and cod
Traps. Five stolid men not there for wives and
Families, strength to help those in need, strong
Backs for cabin building, pulling on the other
End of six-foot crosscut saws.
Decades later, I have kept this postcard, holy
Remembrance, requiring a magnifying glass
To see those stands of spruces, stony shore-
Lines called home. That’s how my life began,
An Isle au Haut girl, watching boats transiting
Our home thoroughfare, waiting with lantern
Lights, for returning weathered faces of our
Five Maine lobstermen lost on freezing seas.
Free-verse reflections of an older woman regarding the death
of her father and four other Maine lobstermen.
Three-hundred poems earlier: “Trinity” God, Cod, and Family