“Letter From the Shore”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Sept. 4 2012 6:00 AM

“Letter From the Shore”

“Letter From the Shore”.

Photograph by Brian Crowley.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Kristin Fogdall read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.     

We’re out past the old town line,
a block from the railroad tracks,
and trains rattle the shelves
every couple of hours.

Nights are getting colder—
the ice built thick enough
below the dam, and fishermen
bring their huts and lanterns,
towing enormous shadows.

I’ve been down for a closer look—
they're kneeling in the dark
with buckets, with spears,
and the openings they cut
are little doors, at which
they seem to listen,
or you could say (almost) pray.

Usually they are quiet—
careful silhouettes
against the glowing shacks,
but here or there a man
will stand, suddenly pull up
hand over hand
a silver, dripping jewel.

Sometimes disembodied lamps
strike out from the rest
(satellites linking constellations)
and bits of conversation
break on the edge of the causeway,
impossible to understand.

Out there among the stations,
one man raised his arm to me,
the gesture crossing
his ice-blue flame, a semaphore—
and from here of course
what I tell you is wrong.

I will never cross the ice
to learn about gear or weather,
or what the men might say
to someone on shore.

Night wears on, the wind increases;
some of the lights will leave.
Near two, another train
will barrel through,
the sky will have damped
out half the stars by far,
and when this letter reaches you,
send a mortal flare,
tell us where you are.

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site.

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