The Poetry of Paying Attention

During the last presidential campaign, the poet Naomi Shihab Nye had the daunting task of introducing Caroline Kennedy at an Obama campaign event in San Antonio, Texas. The honor was made particularly formidable because Ms. Kennedy’s plane had been significantly delayed.

Irene

Irene

No turbines in the Sound yet

wind makes its presence

felt the old-fashioned way

my old Vic of a house

rocks and sways with gusts

blowouts of freed-up energy

Plants take up residence in

the safety of inside next to

hammock, porch chairs and grill

tables fend for themselves

bushes and shrubs wear Wilt-Proof

Nine Eleven: 10 Years Later

Nine Eleven: 10 Years Later

Heavy skies drop rain

daily in intermittent waves

this old summer cottage

of ours harbors air eddies

demands the wood stove

current-sucking heater coils

extra layers, sweaters, wool

socks; trees wave remnants

of their storm-seared leaves.

Potted foliage sags its greenery

fallen petals stain the porch floor

Vanity

Vanity

I saw you anchored

In summer

Just on the edge

Outside the shoal

Still shallow

Off Shear Pen Pond

Oscar in waders

Scratchin’ for hogs

I’ve seen your

Stern

In winter

Sputter

While you towed

For scallops

Dredges draining

On the rail

Oscar’s back

Edgartown

Edgartown

Like each sea captain’s home must be surrounded

by the white picket fence of a whale’s jaw full of teeth

over which morning glory vines grow like scrimshaw.

Like the White Cliffs of Dover must be rebuilt to welcome ships,

where houses stand like blocks of marble on Main Street,

and the glass fan window is a pale British Sunrise of sorts.

In Memory of Julia

In Memory of Julia

Like leaves of fall, shells change in shape,

managing their change of fate.

Parts and pieces, seaweed strewn,

parade of beauty, stop to swoon.

Reeds of grass, like tufts of hair,

climbing toward the well-worn stair.

Tidal swim, when moon is full,

arms outstretched to catch the pull.

From piers we leap into the chop,

and beg this summer not stop.

And the Ocean, Always the Ocean

Stand here and there, old Vineyard homes,

All wrapped in deep content.

— Emma Mayhew Whiting

They’re painting all the houses white in Edgartown,

capping flat pickets to fences around resplendent lawns,

cut on a diagonal. The parade is just around the corner.

Sit at the spinning wheel in the keeping room, scrimshaw

on the mantel. The crane swings in the high fireplace

and the streets are filled with shouts for

Joe Cressy

Joe Cressy

Salty and scholarly

Haltingly clear

What Joe Cressy spoke

You wanted to hear

Scottish and kilted

Malt in his hand

Reciting keenly

So Scots understand

Heeling on Halcyon

Bound for the sky

Cresting and leaning

A tear in his eye

Mary and daughters

Jane’s Beautiful Soul

Jane’s Beautiful Soul

to experience the Vineyard’s magical majesty

to see the idiosyncracies of each backyard tree

to look at our Island’s night sky as always new

to talk to her dog, Mac, as though to me and you

in one of Jane’s poems entitled My Trees

she hears “screeching sound of saws on trees”

so roads can be made and houses built

in forest where she and a boy once walked

Artemis’s Caution

Artemis’s Caution

When you look at a deer

what do you see?

Carrier of ticks? Raider of you garden? Meat for your freezer?

Pest, scourge, rodent with antlers?

When you contemplate a deer,

the only large animal left to roam wild

in our woods, a brilliantly fired creature who bolts off

with lifted white tail, speed like a gazelle, consider

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