You have to love a poem that insists on its right not to speak, as this week’s poem does, because any poem is both meant to be spoken and also happens in a reader’s mind when it’s read.

“Improvisation” uses a jazzy, sprung rhythm to render a beautiful day at Haystack, an amazing home for arts and crafts up on Deer Isle. Martin Steingesser is the author of three books of poems, including “Yellow Horses” (Deerbrook Editions, 2015). His poems have received a number of awards, most recently the Betsy Sholl Award in 2013, and he was the first poet laureate of Portland.


By Martin Steingesser

I’m not going to talk anymore, I’m going to stand in this autumn

Haystack sun and play my flute and not speak, not a word.

I’ll be a sunshine man on this all blue September day, the sky blue,

the sea blue, all around blue except of course evergreens

and avocado-rind green blue spruce, saw-edged against sky blue sea

and sea blue sky. “Sweet Jesuz,” a friend says over my shoulder,

“I am old,” crooning it a way that doesn’t sound like dying but shines

like the steptop sun silver Haystack deck, only not a word –

I’m not saying a one. I sit atop the stackhay decklong flights of stairs

above the sea, high as osprey circling this topstep Sun, improvising

my Indian blue flutesong, two flags snap-snapping in seachop wind

like the shoe rag in a black man’s hands I was jealous he made sing,

just the way my friend who said “Sweet Jesuz” made the word old

sing like silver deckboards here in the Deer Isle morning. No, I’m not

talking anymore, I’ll be the shine man snapping his September rag,

Sun so bright day goes white down the long and open

silver Haystack stairs, improvising Sweet Jesuz, Sing! who be old.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2002 and 2014 Martin Steingesser. It appeared originally in “Brothers of Morning” (Deerbrook Editions, 2002) and appears here by permission of the author.

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