There are no ice skaters on Corea Harbor. Except there are, in November, as this week’s poem explains.

Douglas Woodsum teaches English in rural Maine. His poems have appeared in many magazines including in Yankee, Southern Review, New England Review and The Beloit Poetry Journal, and his book “The Lawns of Lobstermen” was published by Moon Pie Press in 2010.

The Skaters of Corea Harbor, Maine

By Douglas Woodsum

The harbor seldom freezes. When it does

Only the hollow-boned gulls on their webbed

Feet can enjoy the thin, brittle ice. Men

 

In heavy boots and layers of wool break

Through if they are so foolish as to try.

Instead they wait for calm November dawns

 

Like today, when the boats float on the sky.

They wait and then they skate in wooden skiffs

From their wharves to their fishing boats, stroking

 

Across the icy calm with long wooden

Oars, the smooth sanded edges, sanded by

The sea, cutting clean glassy tracks that swirl

 

As if a skater had stopped to twirl. Once

I saw a man with one leg skate by,

Or, I should say, he stood in his skiff

 

Propelling it with a single oar.

As graceful as any skater born and raised

In the North, he glided by strokes to where

 

His boat was moored. They do not know I watch

Them skate with their oars and their flat-bottomed

Skiffs, leaving whirlpools in ice; just as I

 

Did not know when I first ventured on ice

That it’s not ice we skate on when we skate

On ice. It’s water that comes from the blade

 

Pressing down, melting a thin track

So we float as we stroke.

Thawing the ice, we sail.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is poet who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1999 Douglas Woodsum. It appeared in Friends of Acadia Journal, Fall/Winter 1999, and in “The Lawn of Lobstermen” (Moon Pie Press, 2010) and appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to pressherald.com/tag/deep-water.

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