Near Popham Beach

I pulled mackerel after shimmering mackerel,
not even stopping to bait my hook,
that month at the mouth of the Kennebec.
Still a year from a driver’s license,
I climbed the rocks and explored the Fort,
anything to not hear them fight.
I collected driftwood at the high tide line,
built a fort of my own, but a local
had the sheriff tear it down.
When my mother asked him why,
he poked at a rubber in the sand.
He’s a good boy, she said, that wasn’t him.
One suppertime an unstrung woman walked
the shoreline calling her little boy’s name.
Someone had seen a kid in the water,
so she wailed her way in up to the neck.
They found her son a little later,
talking with sailors at the Coast Guard station.
After three weeks, my mom had enough,
and took my brother to Nana’s in town,
but Dad and I stayed out the week.
He kept to himself and smoked in the cottage,
while I tried on a world free of them both.
Two more years and it was over for good.
I learned to eat clams at Spinney’s Store,
pulling them out of the steaming pail,
a rinse in hot broth, dip in drawn butter.
I never lost my taste for the tough chewy tail,
whole fulsome belly like a soft briny egg,
the grit of sand and shells in my mouth.

Front page image by Alex Brown.

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