dream docked Portland man

james-mcneill-whistler

I know a Portland man…
his salt pepper beard taps and shakes
upon his breast bone; dun trousers sag
enfold his shanks…are ragged hemmed;
with dimmed eyes he squints to calibrate
chill coastal skies

some time long past he plunder jousted trees
hewed pines and  hemlock  for a living;
on instinct now with street grimed hands
he strokes wood fences benches…searches for
the grain, caresses for the plane, encounters splinters

once virile muscles dwindle atrophy
diminish neck chest arm thigh shoulder;
once limber feet no longer spring his stride
on timber loam sod bedded deep within
a forest edged with sea storm drench
that steamed his manhood

today he vagrants oil tarred wharves
where freighter…ship…and liners rock;
he…soiled…fastened as he is with old
breathes in a rank dank ocean where
he will…dream docked…age locked
intrigue my memory

 

Bonnie Marshall

Artwork by James McNeill Whistler

10 thoughts on “dream docked Portland man

  1. a detailed portrait painted with relatively few brushstrokes. each stanza presents another layer. it would’ve been easy to romanticize or sentimentalize this subject. i come away from the poem respecting him for the life he has led of hard work with his own muscles, now failing him. and i come away (again) with respect for a poet who writes with such control of tone and the creativity to come up with phrases like “plunder jousted.”

  2. A lovely tribute to this man, once virile and vital, now withered but still dignified. He reminds me of my father struggling in his final years, his mind sharp but his body betraying him at every turn, on every hour. You remind me to see everyone for their humanity. Thanks, Bonnie.

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