Eight Bells Toll

A gale force blew across the sound that October night

when the MISS LINDSAY dragged her anchor

and rolled her keel

in the shallows of Portage Island

before eight bells tolled over Bellingham Bay.

 

Was it a rogue that broke the swell

and swamped this purse seiner,

her nets stowed and holds clean,

and drowned these fishers

of Russia’s tides and Mexico’s shores?

 

With voices hushed and tears freely flowing,

the mourners still hear a crewman’s voice—

once crisp and clear—now a whisper in the wind:

Do not wait for our watch to end.

Do not wait for eight bells to toll over Bellingham Bay.

 

The seiner’s pulsing diesels vibrate the sea

under gray and misting skies.

Its crew tosses a wreath on the quivering bay.

With their skiff, they circle

as if pursing their comrades’ last cast.

 

They return to their stations

and sail into nightfall

leaving their tribute

to bob on the harbor eddy

in eerie afterglow of fishing lights.

                    Hale Passage, Puget Sound, WA

                                                          1997

Just Zucchini!

     Sometime in midsummer 1998 when my wife and I were very much into gardening, we made the mistake of taking a few days off. When we turned, our zucchini patch was a monstrous jungle. With a wheelbarrow load of fruit, I could only think of one thing to do: write a poem! The next spring, our Master Gardener Foundation used my photo on the cover and Just Zucchini! as the concluding page of a cookbook.