Plum Island Suite
by David Stankiewicz
I At twenty–two
all you need’s
an old car
music and books
enough job to pay the rent
a broken heart (optional)
books and music
a little pot
a nascent taste for decent bourbon
a notebook full of naïve pages
a good friend
a lonely beach to walk in darkness
to its end
interlude: at the island’s jut
into violent tides
where the river pushes and pulls against immensity
You can find almost
anything on the winter beach
driftwood of course
even whole trees
the seal one afternoon
interlude: where another river pushes and pulls
IV Winter Rental
“If you can’t afford two–fifty each a month
you boys have bigger problems than me”
our soon–to–be–landlord quipped
when asked if he wanted references.
And so it was ours, November to May,
three small rooms perched like a crow’s nest
atop the peeling gray house.
The floors sagged to center, windows leaked heat
but from one of them you could just glimpse
a blue horizon. The whole thing
creaked and swayed like a ship.
The island’s quiet prevailed.
We furnished it with the grimy couch
the evicted tenant left, the gold–orange
armchair salvaged from the curb,
your stereo, CDs in a pile, old mattresses
for the bedrooms, desks in there too.
And your books and my books:
Moby Dick, Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life
Gravity’s Rainbow, War and Peace.
It sure as hell sounds pretentious now
but there was no one to impress
and those winter sea–winds
call for hearty fare.
And so: early evening. The day spent somewhere
beyond the causeway to town. You light
a cigarette at the tiny square table squeezed in
by the stove. I stir the black bean soup.
The mindless tides will heave and fall back,
hours meander like dunes, while we
talk and read and laugh and talk and read.
requisite feathers and shells
the sculpted rhythms of water
less trash than in summer
but more interesting
the true wreckage
of storms and
good poets bad poets
skeletons offish of seagulls
a few wind–loosed words
blown across the page
oceans of atmosphere
literal and not
a surplus of light
once I discovered an intact porpoise carcass
I mistook for a shark
up close I saw the horizontal tail–fin
and thought of open hands
when I went back to brood on it later
it was gone
then there was the long conversation
we found one night and have been
raveling ever since
from the clustered houses
clambering for a view
down along the shore through
the seven mile refuge
the island’s wilder end
V Off the Island
I loved gazing out from
the riverfront downtown.
All that moving water, open air,
our island in the gilded distance.
That small city itself had plenty
to draw us. Have we not
religiously kept our rounds ?
Twenty–two plus thirteen equals
now. By general reckoning
we’re still young, though even then
I was prone to looking back.
So life moves on (and doesn’t).
Nostalgia’s only a symptom.
Living’s the killer, as we
already understood. You
taught me the value of irony:
not only to honor absurdity
but to protect what’s mostly
unsayable. At twenty–two
we knew more than we knew:
an island, ambition, the sea.
No need to heap words here,
to recover it all. The past
lurks in the present, and
whatever I’ve forgotten
remains spoken by waves.