In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Isle au Haut
  • Amanda Harris (bio)

Click for larger view
View full resolution

Photo of Twin Towers by Chad H; photo of eagle by John McTarnaghan; photo of island shore by One Brown Cookie

[End Page 158]

Click for larger view
View full resolution

A bald eagle has claimed the same low-hanging branch fifteen feet from the cabin for three consecutive mornings. I’ve begun to think of it as my totem animal, though generally I don’t believe in that kind of thing. You’d imagine the nation’s emblem would have a majestic, full-throated cry, but that’s not the case. It’s definitely a high-pitched chirping. The eagle sits hunched, his body motionless for the better part of an hour, his head pivoting like a lawn sprinkler, tracing the paths of seagulls loitering on Long Pond. The gulls dunk their heads and slap their wings against the water’s surface; it sounds like applause. The eagle reminds me of a big, muscular chocolate Lab perched in a tree. His stillness and patience are unnerving. [End Page 159]

The roar of an incoming seaplane scatters the gulls, and I watch the eagle silently ascend, his talons poised like a pianist’s hands arching over keys. I imagine the pilot looks like Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient, that he’s wearing a brown leather aviator’s hat with the goggles pushed up onto his strong forehead. The plane lands loudly, then motors forward as if moved by a boy’s hand across bathtub water.

A year ago, planes had different connotations. So did Manhattan. Stuyvesant High, located in Battery Park City and in the shadow of the World Trade Center, reopened a week after 9/11 out at Brooklyn Tech. I was forced to ride the “reverse commute” back to Manhattan each afternoon with my students until Christmas break. We spent the remainder of the term reading The Waste Land. I told them I sympathized with Eliot’s representation of the Sibyl, a prophetic woman who ages but never dies. When I lost Steve, we had only been married a year, had known one another for a year before that. We were in our midthirties, neither of us had been married before and we still didn’t know all of one another’s secrets. On Isle au Haut, there are no secrets.

Gary raps lightly on the screen door, as you do when you already know someone’s home.

“Ashley. Sorry I didn’t call first, but your mom said she left a check.”

He stands in the middle of the room, hands shoved into jeans pockets, looking at me like he’s asking a question.

“You never call first. It’s right here. Coffee?”

“Yes, please. Whoa.” He points out the window. “That plane nearly collided with Rose and Puck.” Rose, our closest neighbor, lives a half mile down the pond. Every morning around this time, she rows her boat for exercise while Puck, her standard poodle, calmly faces her in the bow. Every morning she looks over at me and waves.

When Gary sits down on the couch, he keeps his knees spread wide like cocky young men on the subway. I sit beside him.

“You busy?” he asks.

“I’m supposed to be filling out paperwork so I have a job to go home to,” I say, glancing at the messy dining room table. I took a leave of absence during the spring term to sort through photographs, handwritten cards, soft white undershirts and cuff links in a pile like spent shell casings. “I’m creating a syllabus for a bunch of shell-shocked seventeen-year-olds.”

Gary looks a little relieved, then a little concerned, like the look my students gave me when I showed up for the final after forgetting my book bag full of exams on the train. [End Page 160]

“What did you read for high school English?” I ask.

Animal Farm. Slaughterhouse-Five. The Iliad.”

“I need something lighter.”

Gary swirls the last of his coffee and drains it.

The Odyssey?” he says, wrapping my ponytail around one fist so my head tilts back a bit. Then...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 158-172
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.