Magazine | September 9, 2019, Issue

New London Ferry

(Simon Dawson/Reuters)

Climbing to the breezy deck
We hear ourselves descanting on
A rib of sky, white peals of sun,
And soft dying rains that fleck 

A sheen on the water. Clouds yield
Sunlight to the outstretched wing,
Fast by the bow, held on the wing —
Cut silver on a leaden field. 

What journey was this? The same bright
Change that echoed through the Sound,
The ferry’s wake flown underground,
The sky split with angelic light —  

It turns to wine too rich to drink.
A superflux of being cast
Between the present and the past —
Impossible to sum or think. 

We stand on the expected ship.
The ocean swells beneath our feet,
But when known surfaces repeat
We’re apt to give ourselves the slip. 

In rooms below: an idle booth,
Scotch, a tune by a lad long dead
Warm the heart and heal the head —
The afterglow of someone’s youth. 

This music of the present past
Might be a ghost to help escort
Those traveling from port to port,
If spirits should their ships outlast.

Novelist and critic Lee Oser teaches English at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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