Today's poems are by Betsy Sholl


Wharves with their warehouses sagging
    on wooden slats, windows steamed up
       and beaded with rain—it's a wonder

weather doesn't wash them away. In time,
    they seem to say, you'll be gone too,
       your belongings left on a quay for the taking . . .

What's there to do, but stroll over cobbled streets,
    listing letters you owe, books, food, anything solid—
       cement stairs, bike chains, manhole covers,

anything to weigh yourself down. But later,
    sleeping, you'll run like rain downhill
       back to those ramshackle buildings

stacked like crates, windows pitted with salt,
    doors barely held on their hinges.
       You'll be there, on the slotted dock

with its barnacled pilings, its green
    weedy skirts that shimmy in slow time
       against wave wrack and slump: at home

in that floating world, as water unravels
    masts into rippling flags. You'll hear
       engine grind, halyard clank, and fog's

ghostly horn declaring water takes all
    in the end. Or is that the voice of some other
       shadowy self just wanting to see

how insubstantial we are, how loosely moored
    to everything solid—and yet, here,
       for a time, within this wash of oilslick

and cloud drift, this long-stemmed sea,
    star-floating, gull feathered, where all things
       that have to end, begin.

Gulls in the Wind

Bedraggled feathers like bonnets
that would fly off if they weren't strapped,
kazoo voiced, a chorus of crying dolphins
or rusty sirens a speck of dust could set off—
these raucous gleaners milling around

pick up and discard, now a Q-tip,
now a shred of lettuce or cellophane,
a cigarette butt one holds a second
as if he really might smoke. One drags
an old condom, one spots a good crumb

and walk-runs, squawks everyone else away.
But it's just a dried scrap of weed he'll toss back,
grist for the next fool's expectation.
Still, a loud alpha catches wind,
scoots over to check it out. Shove off,

he screeches, this is my no-good, barren,
motel-infested spit of sand—on which
he neither toils or spins, but grubs all day
on webbed feet and clever back-hinged knees,
now skittishly sidestepping a gusty

piece of plastic blown against his legs,
hopping to get it off, now shaking it
once or twice to make sure it's worthless
before he turns his face to the wind,
letting it smooth those fine fractious feathers.

Copyright © 2004 Betsy Sholl All rights reserved
from The Maine Poets
Down East Books
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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