(for Elizabeth Bishop)
Nautilus Island's hermit
heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage;
her sheep still graze above the sea.
Her son's a bishop.
is first selectman in our village;
she's in her dotage.
the hierarchic privacy
of Queen Victoria's century
she buys up all
the eyesores facing her shore
and lets them fall.
The season's ill--
we've lost our summer millionaire
who seemed to leap from an L.
His nine-knot yawl
was auctioned off to lobstermen.
A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.
And bow our fairy
decorator brightens his shop for fall;
his fishnet's filled with orange cork
orange his cobbler's bench and awl;
there is no money in his work
he'd rather marry.
One dark night
my Tutor Ford climbed the hill's skull;
I watched for love-cars.
Lights turned down
they lay together hull to hull
where the graveyard shelves on the town.
My mind's not right.
A car radio bleats
"Love, O careless Love.
" I hear
my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,
as if my hand were at its throat.
I myself am hell;
only skunks, that search
in the moonlight for a bite to eat.
They march on their soles up Main Street:
white stripes, moonstruck eyes' red fire
under the chalk-dry and spar spire
of the Trinitarian Church.
I stand on top
of our back steps and breathe the rich air--
a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage
She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
and will not scare.