The Wooden Miles: Poems by Kevin Craft

The Wooden MilesPoems by Kevin Craft

The Wooden Miles: Poems by Kevin Craft


She is one moving over the boardwalk — 
my mother in Ocean City — crossbeam
hammered and hovering above the dune
line, boardwalk cracking like an exhumed spine.
So much love does she have for it, walking
the boards has become her life’s work,
measuring out the wooden miles like stalking
her own horizon, summer after summer
climbing down the gray-green ladder of the Atlantic
only to climb back up again, every plank a sleeper,
every nail a fraction of that solitude
named for the beach end of the road — 12th Street,
13th — the music pier floating over breakers
like an ark. But who is alone walking
on a boardwalk if not my mother in winter
gauging the distance between storms
and the hours she has to make it through
childhood and back again, hers awash in
sistering, the small tasks of being eldest
among six, three in a room, one big bed,
born into a boom she can’t escape.
I know her by the broad-brimmed hat,
the trail of gulls and the easy way
she lifts me from the splinter in my foot
or finds me somewhere in her twenties
sitting on a bench, waiting if not wailing through
a blank day lost and found. What do I know
about difficulty then except what I glean
from late night arguments in the kitchen,
my mother driving to work and my father
chain smoking at the end of the driveway,
never mind the hopeless weeping
she all but buries herself inside that summer
Christopher was lifted, blue and lifeless,
from the bottom of the pool. The Atlantic
has nothing on her, pounding out its names
for erasure, emptiness and fullness the same
calamity underwriting now the doo-wop band,
now the high school prom and string quartet,
drawing the sanderlings into its sheen,
chasing them aside. Through cold war backwash
and every season of the Ferris wheel
she walks as if the boards depended on it,
the hardwood opening to her tender instep,
so many breaks collected in her stride.


I am sitting
on the grassy shore
of Alcyon Lake

fishing for lazy carp
or waiting for fireworks
to embellish

twilight in July,
the bicentennial
darkness warming

to history like a shy
friend I am following
now to the train tracks,

drawn by the distant
clatter and whistle
with a fistful of pennies

to smash into medallions,
ovoid and weighty
as a lie. From the tire

swing my brother
falls and cuts himself
in the rusty creek,

a little bloodletting
we survive by leaping
from sand bank to gravel bar

running from the stones
I throw at yellow jacket
nests for no good

reason, the heat of summer
coiling in our brains.
Soon they will drain

the lake, cup by cup
of poison leaching out of
the lakebed until

the mallards flee
the carp disappear
the geese grow oblong

lumpy like clumsy
lovers with no better
place to make

love memorable, never mind
where a duck goes
when the water’s gone,

when the decade
like gasoline in sunshine

out of both arms
open like the whitewash

glare of a missed slide
out of which a man
comes walking all over

again, brushing his sideburns,
holding up a fish
that glitters like the only
life he knows.

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