Edited and introduced by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc.

A native New Yorker, Carl Little has made his home on Mount Desert Island for many years, and his most recent collection is “Ocean Drinker: New and Selected Poems.”

In this poem, a simple car wash takes the speaker to a boat in the Caribbean with the Prussian explorer Alexander von Humboldt. I love how the wet sponges hitting the car have become “huge strips of kelp / slopping against the bow.”

Little reminds us how even the most ordinary experiences can cause us to see the world with new eyes.

Ellsworth Car Wash

By Carl Little

After paying seven bucks for “just a wash”


suddenly you’re with Humboldt

sailing across the stormy Caribbean,

spray from all sides obscuring

your vision, huge strips of kelp

slopping against the bow.

Then just as abruptly the voyage ends:


Coming through the other side of the squall,

blasts of hot air blowing you dry,

you regain your sea legs.

A new land lies before you: Rite Aid

and the road to Bar Harbor.

– For John Anderson

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Carl Little. It appears here by permission of the author.

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