• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 01
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Rough Seas

I grew up on this tiny island attached to the mainland
by a wedge along a border with New York named
after the island of Jersey but we even more removed

from the civilization of cities the farther south you went
before you were pummeled with what made islands
islands—seas of Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay.

I grew up in a fishing village and I only call it that
because it’s what we did in summer, why anyone came
here and what you did in winter if you were hearty

and we weren’t so we scraped by on Social Security
checks and a cache of relatives who either came
to this village because we were here or vice versa.

Aunt Elsie lived on Pennsylvania Avenue
we on New Jersey and Blanche on New York
a relative by non-marriage, Nana’s brother’s

girlfriend who he was supposed to marry and never
did even after his wife died early after a fourth child
so she settled away from the city as we had.

This was a place you ran to if you needed to get away
but once on this island it was hard to leave.
It kept you in its arms of sand and salt and wind

and sun and the smell of fish filleted in back yards
and the brack line along the beach never swept clean
like resorts were so there was treasure everywhere


Rough Seas

you turned over a shell. Pirates came here to poach ships
washed up on shoals before this island only allowed
pilots to navigate the bay to river to harbor until

it narrowed into a gap between cliffs but only fools
hadn’t turned around by then. And I loved this island more
than I loved the loose clan I was part of. It was steadier

in a storm and year after year I test myself and depart
from Cape May for Lewes on the ferry in the worst January
weather to visit the graves of those buried in rough seas.