Beyond those shuttered summer cottages,
wind drives in off the Atlantic
down Galilee’s main street, its ice-encrusted pilings.
It makes the rigging wires pine.
Under strung lamps women slicked in rubber gear
are spearing skate into barrels.
Out there, beyond the breachway and the breakwater mark,
in huge breathing heaves, Block Island sound.
The tide turns in frigid dark before the new year.
Bells blare the next shift of fish workers back to the pier.
Cafes empty. Jackets on. Watch caps.
Slap of double-gloved hand, creak of snow under boot,
red flare of a shared cigarette, frayed end of a frozen
castoff line. Words thin to vapor in the air.
Deck lights, diesel fumes, muffled shouts,
the boats rock out of their berths.
The trawlers pitch past Point Judith beacon,
listening for her horn, and sonar gropes
for the wandering schools, yellowtail, cod,
the big score, the harvest gone,
millions of tons vacuumed out by factory ships,
a dent in every species, and it’s hard to see
the shrunken catch as anything but conspiracy,
Washington somehow, Wall Street,
the banks, pirates and honchos shoving poker chips
around a table in hot sun, slugging martinis, swatting at gnats.
Hard, hard to feel played for a fool
and still to believe in moonlight and luck, a heavy draw
from the deep invisible future, a glowing shoal dead ahead,
and to reach into the grave and get it.
Karen Donovan’s first book of poems, Fugitive Red, won the Juniper Prize and was published by University of Massachusetts Press. Her new collection, Your Enzymes Are Calling the Ancients, won the Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award from Persea Books and is forthcoming in 2016. Donovan was co-editor of ¶: A Magazine of Paragraphs, a journal of short prose published by Oat City Press, and she has had work most recently in Blackbird, Conjunctions, and Diagram. She works as a writer in Providence.