May Swenson





Old No. 1

A shock to find you washed up on the beach,
old no.1, looking like an iron whale,
or a blunt rocket.  What a storm it took

to pull you from bottom, breaking the root
of the anchor.  And what a wave, to roll
your solid ton, like a giant's thick and broken

pencil point, so far up the scoured beach.
You're dumped on a ridge of sedge the storm tide
harvested, big ring in your snout half buried,

rusted cone below your watermark scabby orange,
glazed black paintskin of belly and round
tabled top fouled with dull white gull droppings.

But you're still No.1 -- it's clearly stenciled
upon you -- old Stove Pipe, old Opera Hat, 
Bouncer in the Channel, Policeman of the Bay

all boats salute. Your colleague, nipple-headed
Big Red No. 2 is out there swaying on today's 
gentler tide like a jolly bottle, but

you, Black Butt, you're gone aground, down
past the count of ten, with a frowzy dead gull
upended in the sandy litter by your side.


spoken =Tansy Mattingly