The Gift


"i never promised you a rowboat."
my father actually said that line
three decades ago; he said it on

my tenth birthday when i cried and
sulked thinking he had promised me one.
god alone knows how i came by such an

idea   pure wish   pa simply didn't
believe in such big gifts   none of us
even had a bike though we were far

from poor   eleven kids   and so   i stole
the rowboats of the lobster men as they
lay sleeping in the long hot marshfield

massachusetts afternoons of summer, dreaming
of lobster pots as packed as full
as boiled red lobster claws.    i liked

John Greenleaf's boat the best, oars
always in it, lightest   out our channel
on the ebb i'd shoot into the calm of

cape cod bay   what things i saw   a silver
horse in ten clear yards of water   the
great rust freckles on a sunken checker

taxi   fins were everywhere   wise
dolphins circled me and shining baked clay
starfish danced a glazed descending measure

all was weaving waving formal pattern designed
at the antipodes where winds blew ribs
and ripples in shell and sand in

endless art   provincetown beckoned   it
looked so near i'd want to try it every time
once i did   twenty miles away   it was dark

before i turned back and dark as hell when i
came up the channel      Mr. Greenleaf
was waiting on the muddy shore with folded

arms his rubber boots colossal   but what he
said was "steal it a little earlier after this,
if you don't mind, leonard   i go out after dark."


Leonard Wallace Robinson, In the Whale, Barnwood Press, 1983.