Fall Poetry by Gloucester’s Jennie MeyerSeptember 29, 2022 / Art and Music, Good to Know
Fall Poetry from Gloucester | Jennie Meyer
As a Cape Ann native, the sea calls to me, as it has called to so many who have lived or visited here throughout the years, as it called to the Pawtucket people who first dwelled on these shores. And I respond. I walk Good Harbor Beach, off-season, in all weather and temperatures, recording my words into my cell phone in a daily effort to untangle my thoughts and emotions. In so doing, I find my way, and my voice. With a prompt sometimes in mind, I whirl together a wash of sun, wind, waves, sand, driftwood, birds, trash (that I pick up), and thoughts which either buoy me or weigh on my heart. Like driftwood, I take these recordings home and whittle them down into poems. The entire collection is entitled Good Harbor, and someday I hope to publish it. Three of the poems appear here.
The ocean offers us infinite gifts, including stunning beauty, susurrant sound baths, sustenance, solace, hope, history, income, inspiration, immersion, recreation, nature in its myriad forms, danger, and endless space in a cramped world. The sea is sometimes a mother and a home to me in her healing and holding. The poem, Fall Berth, reflects this nurturing during a difficult day in this world. The poem appears in Tide Lines, An Anthology of Cape Ann Poets, a collection of poems by a group of artful local poets. (Available for purchase at the Bookstore of Gloucester.)
I pause my creative beach walks in the summer while Good Harbor is full of baskers and bathers. Instead, I put on my piping plover ambassador badge and help to educate beachgoers about two families of nesting plovers through a program led by local photographer and videographer, Kim Smith. In the fall, when the crowds trickle away, I return with my phone and my observations of nature as eco-poet. The monarchs are on the move, making their mass migration along with the birds. In a 2019 storm, I accompanied my teenage son to the beach while he surfed. Understanding how little help my presence provided him, I turned to my walking and writing practice, and to the drowning monarchs. This birthed the poem, Fall: These Fragile Flowers from Summer. As I revised the poem, I kept in mind facts I have learned from Kim, who has an award-winning film on the monarch and its plight, Beauty on the Wing.
The sea calls to me in dreams. Sometimes the water is rising through the floorboards. As a professional dreamworker and poet, I understand that dreams speak to us in metaphor, and the sea provides us with plenty of those! A portion of the trash I pick up while walking is fishermen’s tackle: nets, line, twine and once a rubber glove. As I held the glove and recorded my thoughts, I weighed the threat to marine life posed by this debris and overfishing, with the current threat to the livelihood of fishermen and my own appreciation for eating local fish. During this time, I dreamed of an encounter with a mythical fisherman at sea. Thanks to my profession, I know it’s a metaphor— I am happily married. I like to inform clients that usually dreams of intimacy and connection show us where we have psychological energy. This dream and the related poem, Once in a Dream off Stellwagen Bank, honors my small attempt to see the human story of fishing, and my commitment to my craft as I walk the shore. It celebrates the depths of our unconscious, and all that we can haul up in our nets. It honors the primal call of the sea, right here off the shores of Cape Ann.
Autumn air drizzles,
tide nestles high.
Grey sky wraps close around
the rollers like cashmere.
Sand a heavy rug beneath my feet.
To be held,
hemmed in on both sides,
the path prescribed.
Not sure I could face low tide today,
the gaping possibility of it.
When it seems nothing
holds me up,
holds any of this world up,
at least this cradle
between susurrant surf
and recurring marsh grass.
This sea rose hearth
ablaze in ochre.
Fall: These Fragile Flowers from Summer
Surfers out in the wild-maned ten-foot waves—
fallout from some distant hurricane.
One of them my son. No way to tell which one,
identical in neoprene hoods. They disappear like seals.
Spray breaks on high rocks at the far end of the beach
rising up in frenzy, falling back. I look down—
Methuselah monarchs thrashed into lathered sand despite
toughened migratory wings, now whims of October’s wind,
never to reach the oyamel trees,
their Mexican mountain sanctuary.
In this watery cemetery I see some weakly waving legs. One
by one, they cling to my finger, rise up from the dead.
I draw them to my chest, shield them from the pelting gusts,
walk sideways to buffer them from bitter blasts
to the shelter of dune grass, to swaying goldenrod
bloom— a wish that might nourish them back to health.
I don’t know if these few will survive— stained-
glass wings ground, sealed shut with brine and sodden sand,
don’t know if this steady rain will revive them,
rinse their near-drowning away.
Here in the storm, how many thousands lost,
as if aloft on tissue-paper?
A line of foam streams across the shallows to my feet,
tears apart like wings.
I pick up a vape washing in— how teens scar their inner
wings, almost as delicate as monarchs’.
Where is my son? Beyond the gunning rollers?
Today his path back is short, and his gear is strong.
I scan back and forth in the crumbling surf for streaks of
tangerine, white dots, black lines, as light leaks from the sky.
Once in a Dream off Stellwagen Bank
I skinned a fish on a metal slab
as a fisherman hauled up the catch,
the flat-hulled Novi boat idling
as we rocked and worked. I washed the scales
from my hands in a small sink at the stern,
turned to find him standing beside me,
eyes hooked with mine, so close, so wetly raw
the wind, so gently rocking the boat, my chest
a net trawling up a glistening, aching catch,
the sudden soft of lips on lips in the pitch—
somewhere the hot heart of whale in dark sea,
somewhere a blazing kerosene lamp.