The Hand Off

I.  Transformation

Wooded, granite shores, mansions and lawns
a low shore line, and a fickle  changing ocean–
New England coast town harbors, offshore islands
large and small, ledges and lighthouses,
intimate spaces, and a sea sullen or
quickly tempestuous, my boat Seminole’s home
for thirty years.  Old now, as I am,
I have given her away to a son living elsewhere,
she left by truck to cross a continent.

Large, crowding a whole lane, she arrived at dawn
carrying her long mast like a spear, piercing
a landscape of freeways, concrete and mountains,
and enters Marina-del-Rey, launched few hours
later, becomes one among a multitude, and within the day
sails into the Pacific, tacking out
through a passage of white facades,
chalk like  condo  cliffs,
coming  into the wide,  empty Pacific Ocean,
and the rhythm of long swells.

Disparate worlds, the Northeast and Southwest
where you drive to change the climate,
live in the indolence of the ever sweet sun
rather than be subject to the change
of seasons, where you wrap boats in winter

2 Explaining things
I personify my boat, giving it opinions
awareness of where it is
or where we are.

Away from the play of seasons, summers and bleak winters
she was trucked to the vast Pacific, where distances are great,
With no-where to go quickly along a lee shore.
My son’s expectations are great
mine, old and cynical.

A boat is a promise for going off
into dreams of the foreign, south sea islands,
foggy mists of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland,
or the great inland sea of Odysseus,
even in the foggy islands of Maine
Joan and I sailed in the summer.
Arrivals and departures, the changing sea
rising and falling winds, threatening
and pacific, the sound of dolphins breathing
unseen in the fog about us.
When we age such adventures become hard,  ludicrous,
dreaming fades, and its time
to pass it on to the young.

Now Seminole is only one among many,
in a vast white flotilla – berthed in slips.
Mexican immigrants  do the grunt work,
cleaning, varnishing, soda blasting bottoms,
use scuba gear underwater to clean
scale and weed from foul bottoms.
In the endless summer,: think differently.
never face the clock,  the imperatives of flowing change

The season change breaks moods, shifts us,
prevents the locked mind from complete stasis;
the stasis of perpetual summer.

3.    Histories End

I grew up in San Francisco, knew the old California of cities with limits, bare brown hills dotted with live oaks, glorious orchards, and deep dark redwood forests.  San Francisco’s fog, shifting beauty filling voids, never either hot or cold, chilly often, no more.  The smell of ocean sweeps through the gate, tumbles over the hills. North end bars filled, fifty years ago with poets, before money came.

Who is left now, where is the center?

New York again?, Ginsberg’s world, the Howl
came from everywhere, prophesying  end.
as it will  now, the expansion of usury
taking the last margin, the environment depleted.

So much money in  California, growing on itself.

My century,( we witnessed this, if old enough);   the grand arc of opulence,
the gas mask war, the great party, (when I was born) Crash and a mean time, depressed,
internal violence, war on booze ended, farms blew away, Oakies and Arkies and my parents
moved west.  Strikes, a war against communists, Wobbles, executions,
crawling out of poverty with the New Deal, a world war saved us, peace and the Bomb,
more wars, hot and cold, prosperity, enriched middle class rising.  Then Regan and decline,
usury and opulence, war on drugs and vast imprisonment.

I look at everything with this knowledge
this  history coloring the uneasy present.
But not really; in my life, or in my play
We cultivate our small spaces; we love, have families.

Pelicans fly low over the water,
wingtips smacking the tops of swells,
more of the moment we can ever be,
so clouded by our histories.  .

The Morning mists dissipate, skies clear
a gentle sea wind rising, we go sailing
along the shore, Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu
little kids and their dog on the bow,
splashed by motor boat wakes, screaming,–
everyone taking a turn at the helm.
Running back, surfing occasionally on the swells,
we sip wine, the gentle wind drops, and we motor home.
This rhythm, this pleasure overrides the incessant.

My old California no longer, I depart, return
to my New England home, to the marshes,
granite ledges of the older sea,

and inevitable decline.

Kent Bowker
September 4, 2013

One thought on “The Hand Off”

  1. Wow! I often use the phrase “matter-of-fact,” my chosen response to what I believe is truly humble when confronted with another person’s truth. For one who has studied and taught poetry over fifty years, Wow! What you’ve created in this poem is a matter-of-fact.

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