Collecting Islands

This return to the mainland
puts an end
to a temporary nomadic life

traversed via planes, trains, cars,
ferries, sailboats, trams,
motorboats, buses, on foot, and repeat.

Islands that are cities. Islands attached to other islands by bridges,
or barrier beaches, or common lore.

The moment Kandinsky’s painting shifted
to the abstract. The moment before
I can no longer identify

the boat in the fog or sea serpent swimming below. Unlike Vanessa
whom I spot immediately in Farm Pond.

A peculiar rain releases
a few drops every five minutes
on the front terrace

of the NYPL flagship building.
A reading between the lions,
someone jokes. Poets raising their voices

to be heard over sirens blaring
on Fifth Avenue. Eavesdropping
in coffee bars over nitro cold brew.

Did he really say
he attended a doll’s wedding?
The bridal shower got canceled

due to a 30-year storm. There’s
the moment a young man named Otto
smiles while we wait

for the ferry on Roosevelt Island.
Some moonsick secrets will remain
forever buried beneath

the octagon. All doors to Union Chapel
in Oak Bluffs are locked when I try
to match an old poem to its truth.

And there’s the ghost of a sign
on the New Haven Union Station platform
that speaks volumes. And the haunting

of seaweed-encrusted rails
to an old boat launch
in Edgartown Harbor: Could they tell

a different tale
involving an underwater subway line
to Chappy?

Another morning, another egret
spotted in a shoreline marsh.
A rookery on Rose Island offers

glimpses between the rocks
of chicks and the adult gulls
that hatched them. Don’t get too close.

It always feels right to arrive
by boat. A rare opportunity
to slip through the Woods Hole

passage and almost touch the shore
of Nonamesset Island on the Seastreak
from New Bedford to the Vineyard.

A blur of out-of-focus photos
I take (not sure how to make)
of the State Beach from a moving bus

reminds me this island
I believe I know so well
cannot be captured—is pure saudade.

The pilot, who I’ve know
since we were six, is not a lunatic.
He knows exactly how to zigzag

the speeding motorboat through
Oyster Pond to Ripley Cove
without hitting one sandbar.

An osprey catches a late lunch
with a quick dive into the ocean
as we watch from the quiet beach.

And, yes, that is a bank of swans
with cygnets swimming in the pond
in the distance we keep.

Back in the middle,
just west of the Mississippi
among all these freshwater lakes,

I see the ducklings have arrived
in Loring Park to soften
this hard return.

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