As my grandfather’s grandfather walks
along the streets of Cromer, East Anglia,
as he takes the switchbacked stone steps
down to the shore, his thoughts roll back up
to his city on cliffs pecked steep
by the North Sea, roll back up to his family.
He sees again the great three-masted ship
his son, the eldest, outlined in dust
at their garden’s edge, and again he hears
the notes of his favorite hymn played by Jen,
his darling, at the clavichord. Now, along
the beach, the crabbers, each in the same
navy coats, push off their elliptical,
scalloped boats, traps packed tightly within.
The journey out this morning presses into
unfathomable fog: he feels just where to
stop, drop his traps.
Walking home uphill that night, the sweet
slick streets alive under lamplight like
a speared conger twisting under the moon,
half of the fishmonger’s money already gone,
the remainder packed tightly in his rope-
burned fingers, he lurches to avoid sudden
spills of noise from public house doors till
he thinks he hears his wife’s voice calling
him in. What else can he do? Alone at the end
of a long, shiny bar, his wife’s voice,
whispery, warm in his whiskey-red ears, says
something soothing about the kids, something
he can’t quite catch. Dozing, he sees himself
small inside one of his traps as it sinks. Paler,
dimmer, evanescent, he knows his voice is
too weak to wake him up. He’s falling farther.
The bottom is coming up.
Copyright © 2005 George Manner
About the poet