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September 2009, vol 5 no 3

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Ellen Compton

 

Epitaph

The beach at sunrise . . . and again I find him here. He followed the water once. Crabs, oysters, and sometimes still he sets his nets. But mostly, he builds boats. Shallow draft, to work the inshore Chesapeake. Tough, to ride the weather. His eyes search the distance . . . and he points. He knows that one. “Trims good, don’t she.” It is not a question. He nods, spits, studies his twisted hands.

surf-washed sand
a gull poops
on the weathered hull


Michael Dylan Welch's comments:

Here we feel immediate mystery. Who is the epitaph for, and who is “he”? Through well-cadenced prose and disarming haiku, we feel deft and simple characterization of both place and person. The spitting, the question that isn’t a question, the twisted hands—all show us the character of the boat-builder, and by extension the Chesapeake Bay setting as well. We discover that the epitaph seems not to be for a person—yet—but for an old boat and the way of life that is going with it.

 

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