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Archives: Summer/Fall 2001 Table of Contents
Treasures Chest
Poetry by Gail Mazur

Three Provincetown Mornings

When I lift the window shade
the first blue heron, feeding alone,
stationed in the shallows.

He's early-he must be-great bird
of winter. This last week of August,
his pale face means beautiful bad news.

All summer I meant to write differently,
to find a vocabulary for the harbor,
its excitable transient birds, the dunes

where, twelve years from his death,
Thoreau wrote, It is wisest to live
without any definite and recognized object

day to day. Reading that late last night,
I thought, Who'd equal him for laziness?
But I knew it wasn't laziness

when I pictured him on the outer shore,
bent to his notebook, transfigured
by the cold Cape sun, each day

equal to him in interest, in variation.


Uninhibited, unedited, the bay
does its green job,
pale and calm as celadon.

Thousands of green species teem-
invisible pastures of plankton,
infinite food factory.

Must everything have a purpose?
Even the cool sand sifting
through my morning fingers?

And these hands, is there a task
they're fit for, one that matters?
My own grabbling for gravitas

as unapparent to the world as
oceanic life seems-
abstract, indecipherable

viewed like this from the shore.


Who'd argue with me if I said
the tide speaks in the voice of Horace:

The years as they pass plunder us
of one thing then another. . . .

I would. This tide tells me nothing-
or rather, barefoot in the sand,

I propose a voice tide never needed
as it brings in sea glass, seaworms,

"gray water" from Canadian cruise ships,
then goes back for more. People

like me, facing the bay's glistening
severity, want incident: swimmers,

silvery minnows, sailing ketches. Want
to hear an aphorism, a wave of wisdom.

Here's half a man's shoe, wet and barnacled-
I press it to my ear as if I'm listening.


Gail Mazur is the author of Nightfire, The Pose of Happiness, The Common, and most recently, They Can't Take That Away from Me (University of Chicago Press 2001), finalist for the National Book Award. She is founder and director of the Blacksmith House Poetry Center in Cambridge and teaches in Emerson College's Graduate Program in Writing, Literature and Publishing. She has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College.

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