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The Pin

ISSUE:  Winter 1985
          for Schwartz, Lowell, Berryman

Perhaps their eyes flooded and closed because
our water, earth, and air are so impure
that only drowning, with its blinding kiss,
can clean us to the bone. The flesh sinks in
temptation and disease; the mind winks
like a buoy in the night; the needle
of the heart points always in, where the child
squats sulky and unsatisfied like Ahab
in his cabin.

             Once, in grade
school, my parents and I were called
in frantic haste to see the X-rays shot
the day before: a pin hung near my heart,
hard as a hook within that watery field.
When had I swallowed it? What could be done?
I imagined I would die. Not till evening
did mother recall the pin that held
my undershirt’s torn strap.

             And still today
as we round Point-No-Point on Chesapeake Bay,
jets skimming the waves like suicidal gulls,
I feel that pin inside me, where it never was;
mourning for lost poets in the pilot house,
I move in spirit toward those sailing ships
across whose graceful bows the cold eye
of the radar goes blip blip blip, throwing
their temporary image on the screen.


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