- Henry Beston at the Outermost House
After the rut of war, you sunk your faith in fairy tales, writing one after another, but the solace was makeshift—so with good New England wood
you built a house in sand on Nauset Spit. A place to come, come summer, two rooms, ten windows. A well pipe to water
under the dunes, chimney to warm the rooms, oil lamps, candles, and a maw of driftwood. A simple lookout on sea and marsh.
With every intention of staying a fortnight you lasted a year. The roar of the sea held you, rhythm of the great waves
breaking in threes. Daily the ebb tide delivered its due: sea grass and rockweed, bleached skulls of seals, then half an oar,
a horseshoe crab gutted with sand. Bare-handed you lifted him by the spire of his tail, rinsing him in waves,
until the hundred whiplike cilia were motion again. Each night the beam of Nauset light swept across your wall. [End Page 153]
On the morning my grandfather walks the beach, you balance midrung on the coast guard’s borrowed ladder, hammering down shingles,
readying for winter. You’ve thrown your lot in with the solitary hawk who harries you down the beach. Circus hudsonius
skimming the blue black, infinitely slow rollers. Probably a nest, far side of the marsh. On that day, she nearly sends you
toppling from the roof with the close call of battering wings. Over beers in the lantern, you’ll recall the assault of her attentions
as nearly amorous, quip about Leda and the Swan, laughing with the guardsman on night watch. But just now, you’re waist flush
to the roof, double hammering, bare chested, lean; behind you marsh, mud flat, and rank animal reek, a phalanx of green fiddlers gone sideways into the reeds. [End Page 154]
catherine staples is the author of The Rattling Window, winner of the Robert McGovern Publication Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, and The Michigan Quarterly Review. She wrote Never a Note Forfeit, which won the 2010 Keystone Chapbook Prize. She teaches in the honors program at Villanova University.