Maine In Winter

The water in the Gulf of Maine   is deep blue cold

coming in   One lighthouse blinks at another   from across

the sound   Small white needles   of fishing boats

split the surface   leaving a wedge widening behind them

Darkness comes early here   slams the world shut

cars rush home along 295   Lights go on in the houses

“You won’t have any trouble there on the island,”

my uncle tells me   “The water temperature is 40 degrees”

“We’ve had snow   We’ve had frost   Not enough

to bother with   although it won’t stand   much longer

that way”

He tells me about the pump   how water settles

in the chambers   and with a good hard freeze

the metal expands and cracks

I know   I’ve made a thousand-dollar journey   to save

a two-hundred-fifty-dollar pump


I drive past my old high school   and then the middle

school where friends held forth   The place is a-buzz

with activity   but not my activity

I pause on the Boulevard   and gaze across the bay

at the bristling city   see the Old North school   where

my father entered   his elegant letters in lined notebooks

Munjoy Hill and the Observatory   which always

seemed too small to observe much of anything   still

tourists come   climb the spiral stairway   to the top


At the island   I inspect the new bathroom   notice

the soft light   streaming through the skylight   squeeze

out the sponge   beneath the hot water spigot   wipe up

moisture on the floor

Workmen have inhabited this space   have used the stove

to warm up their meals   In the living room   are two

quilted pads   covered with sawdust and boot prints

an old paint-splattered radio   its antennae tipped quizzically

to pick up tunes


I go up the road to talk to Chris   his son Cyrus   plays

on the floor   and watches TV   We talk about the lobster

industry   the season’s catch    summers here on the island

He asks if I’ll come here to live   when I retire   or if

I’ve grown used to life “away”   I gaze out the window

at the bare trees   steel-colored water   churning

There is silence   between us



Joann Gardner is an associate professor of English at Florida State University.  She has published in a variety of journals, including Seneca Review, Connecticut Review, Crazyhorse and Louisiana Literature. She has had artist residencies at Villa Montalvo and The Blue Mountain Center and is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her chapbook, La Florida, won the Weldon Kees Prize for Poetry and was published by Backwaters Press.