Poetry

June 29, 2017 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Lori Deiter

 

By

Andrew Hubbard

 

 

The Lighthouse Keeper

(Sad Island, Maine)

 

 

Four weeks on, one week off.

 

The lighthouse was built

In Abraham Lincoln’s administration

And it’s never seen a wreck, but without it

This godforsaken pile of rocks

Where no rocks should be

Would have seen wrecks by the score.

 

She’s been renovated twice,

Last time about 1990.

They gave me a cell tower booster

Upgraded the plumbing and heating

And gave me a refrigerator and washing machine.

 

My sister asks me if I’m not afraid.

Of what? Ghosts?

I’ve been here thirty years

(Since the wife left), haven’t seen one.

Rogue waves?

Haven’t seen one of them either,

And couldn’t care less, I’m only alive

Out of habit anyway.

The only time I’m afraid is once a year I add a coat

Of white paint to Scotty

(I call her Scotty

After the dogs on the label of Black and White scotch).

 

I’ve got scaffolding in the shed

And I start at the top, sixty feet up

On a sagging plank, with not a person in twenty miles.

 

When I’m up high I swear

I hear voices laughing at me

From the roaring surf below

Daring me to jump,

Daring me not to.

God I hate that job.

But it’s my duty

And I always do my duty.

 

A boat comes out every week

With mail and supplies

(Nowadays I text them the order.)

 

My only vice (unless you call

Wanting to be alone a vice)

Is beer. I could live on it,

And I almost do. I have a deal

With the guy who brings my stuff

To add a couple of cases to my order,

Off the books so to speak.

I tip him pretty well. Why not?

What else am I going to do with my money?

 

The first breakfast beer

Is the best one, always,

After that they blend together.

I’ve got a special can crusher

In the cellar and I send

A package of crushed beer cans to my sister

Every week. It only weighs two pounds

And I can’t be too careful: the government inspector

Comes randomly about five times a year.

 

Around the beer, what I do is work:

Glass the sea for anything unusual

Report weather to the marine station,

And monitor ships’ radio broadcasts

For a hundred miles in all directions.

 

Pretty much nothing ever happens

But it’s my duty

And I always do my duty.

 

My sister worries I’m just too old

For this job.

Maybe I am.

I’ve got a theory from something the inspector said without meaning—

I think they’re going to close the lighthouse

In a couple of years, and they just figured

To let me work out the time.

 

I will if I can,

But sometimes I’ve got doubts—

Starting a year ago

There’s dancing black dots

In front of my eyes

When I climb the stairs

And when I stand up.

And there’s like a cold iron band

Around my chest in the morning

Until I have a beer.

 

They gave me a thingy around my neck

To press for emergency attention.

I threw it in the ocean.

 

They couldn’t get here

In less than four hours anyway

And in the meantime

I have to do my duty.

That’s what it is,

That’s all there is,

Duty and beer.

 

 

 

 

Grandfather Pendleton

 

 

His house was the last one

Before the tar road became a dirt track

And the last one the electricity reached.

He had electric lights, and a refrigerator

And couldn’t imagine any other use

For the newfangled power.

 

Mostly he sat at the kitchen table

And absently ran his thumbnail

Up and down a long groove in the wooden surface.

He’d worn his thumbnail all the way down

And the groove was deep enough to stand a penny in.

He didn’t even know he was doing it,

And sometimes wondered where the slit

In the table came from.

 

He smoked an ancient pipe

With a bowl so tainted

From age and use

You could smell it

From anywhere in the house.

(Fifty years later thinking about this pipe

Would make his grand-daughter cry,

And she had no idea why).

 

He drank Caldwell’s rum

(With a clipper ship embossed

On the back of the dark brown bottle)

Out of a real silver goblet

His son bought him for Christmas.

 

He spent much of his time

Staring up the road to where

It bent uphill toward town.

 

Two or three times a month

His son’s red pick-up would appear

With boxes and bags of supplies

And his precious grand-daughter.

 

She was three and only years later

In hindsight would they realize

She was already showing signs

Of the remarkable beauty

That would scar a lot of men

Over the next half a century.

 

The son stowed the supplies

Chopped firewood, did the lawn,

And then they played with the little girl

At the sea’s edge until the visit was over.

 

Then he was angry with himself.

There were so many things

He had thought to say to his boy

And when the time came

He couldn’t think of them

Or he told the same stories over and over

Or he couldn’t figure out how to say

The things on his mind,

And that was the worst.

 

Then he was alone again

The infinite silence clamping down

Except for the quiet bubbling of his pipe

And the faint rasp of his thumbnail

In the groove of the kitchen table.

 

 

 

 

 

andrew-hubbard

Andrew Hubbard

Andrew Hubbard was born and raised in a coastal Maine fishing village. He earned degrees in English and Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and Columbia University, respectively.

For most of his career he has worked as Director of Training for major financial institutions, creating and delivering Sales, Management, and Technical training for user groups of up to 4,000.

He has had four prose books published, and his fifth and sixth books, collections of poetry, were published in 2014 and 2016 by Interactive Press.

He is a casual student of cooking and wine, a former martial arts instructor and competitive weight lifter, a collector of edged weapons, and a licensed handgun instructor.  He lives in rural Indiana with his family, two Siberian Huskies, and a demon cat.

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