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Tuesday, September 07, 2010


by Lillian Baker Kennedy

I usually see you on State Street at the stoplight,
after I’ve passed through Longfellow’s Oaks,
later in the day, the rose garden on my left,
the duck pond on my right.

You stand like a human X,
holding a cardboard sign, offering work.
The official unemployment rate
is 9 point 6, a full day’s work and lunch.

We just had lunch, my son and I,
on a refurbished ship where we could
sit on the deck and celebrate and overlook
a marina of expensive boats.

We dream about buying a boat
when I get old and maybe live
on a canal near the Gulf.  Who knows
how that will turn out?
Speculation’s at the next dock.

We bike by Casco Bay,
two cruise ships in port,
the sailboats further out.
Most off their moorings.  Why not?

It’s a beautiful day, after the hurricane passed.
The air, no longer in a sweat,
lifts my hair gently up. We talk of fall.
Indeed, as I write this, the acorns drop,
but I haven’t forgotten how

this poem is for the man holding a cardboard business card
that covers most of his chest and half of his face.

I wanted to tell him that given Maine’s drought,
the grass is dry. Go ahead and lay yourself down.
Let the sun rain down on your face
while the children shriek and dance
in the concrete pond beyond the footbridge.

Soon they’ll be gone and the duck house lifted out
so the ducks won’t get stuck in the ice.
The ice skaters come and glide
over everything frozen in muck.

I see the imaginary tracks
of a people with their lives in carts.
Nothing left they can do without.
Everything they own, they haul.
The remains of a ship of state.

Where will they go, these ghosts,
crisscrossing the face of the earth?

We spun by a boat hugging the coast,
choking and chugging, almost sunk.
Two adventurous sailors, or foolhardy speculators,
one on the lookout, one with his hand on the motor,
stuck in first, hauling steel beams through the cove.

There are always those who’ll take risks
and those who thought they were safe
working 9 to 5 or 6, with lunch,
who now ask for our help.
We pass by.  I can only hope,

despite the city fathers’ intent,
removing benches from the circle that blooms,
those who, nameless, wait, will, while the sun lasts, relax
in the rose garden next to Longfellow’s Oaks.

Lillian Baker Kennedy's poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart, anthologized, exhibited and published in numerous small presses.  An interview, critical essay on poetics and numerous poems are available online.  Kennedy practices family law in Southern Maine, teaches online for USM and lives in an old cape near the sea.