Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014.09.21 The Old Nantucketeer

In this morning moment, I try to memorize summer as it fades before my eyes. I shall miss it so, as the coldness creeps, then settles, into my bones. But for now, I memorize its every sweetness and prepare to give up berries for apples, bare shoulders for hunched, shivering ones, bare feet for double socks, clear lungs for congested ones, and soft Nantucket sands for my thick comforter. I do, however, adore the beauty of naked trees in winter—also, the glitter of new snow and the gleeful shouts of sledding kids in the nearby park. Still, my island home is kinda mystical to me—a little scary, a little awesome, like the holy.
 As an ode to summer's end, I jotted this proem:

The Old Nantucketeer

We met an old Nantucketeer
on line at the ferry dock—
there to meet a ferry pick-up,
there to pick up guests.
On the rear window of his sizable SUV—
portly as was he—
there was a familiar identifier: a white shield
with a red cross emblazoned, its
upper left corner blue with little white stars
forming an X, five from upper left
to lower right and five from upper right to lower left.
Tic tac doe, or is it toe?
Above the cross arrangement is written
The Episcopal Church.
The church calls its pretty little shield, “soft evangelism.”
For me it was recognition.
My emergent aging extroversion kicked in, “Hi...........
I saw your decal." I stuck my head part way into his window,
interrupting his snooze.
He was buckled into his seat in a reverie of ease.
He awakened and chuckled: “I’ve been coming here
since I was a child; my parental home was in Monomoy
so I know it must have been a mansion,
characteristic of Monomoy and of our Episcopal church.
With some exceptions, I thought.
“Natives fuss about tourists and the summer influx,” he continued.
“I’ve been coming here for over 50 years, summers
and sometimes in winter, “ I interrupted, noticing initials
primly embroidered on the cuffs of his white shirt.
Fancy. Sweet. I’d met a Brahmin.
"People like me, he added, "are called visitors, but we visitors
shed tears when we leave the island." (I know.)
"My brother is fatter than I am," he said. Bragging?
"I can hardly get about anymore."
The ferry horn blasted, signaling
more noxious tourist-types arriving—beloved immigrants—
and some leaving.
My new friend opened his car door and, with labor,
heaved his bulk forward and landed his feet on the pavement.
“You know what they say about Nantucket?” he said.
I waited.
“Nantucket is a chronic infectious disease
 not covered by Medicare.”
He shook in silent mirth; I laughed out loud.
Then I spotted my son and his family bounding
down the ferry gangplank. Hi. Hi. Hi.
I was here when this son was conceived, or was it
when I was pregnant with his sister?

Time gets lost.

My Episcopal friend waved down his friends, turned to
me and said, “I’m devoted to St. Paul’s Episcopal here,
but I worship now at the Congregational Church.”
My irritation rose, fell, and vanished.

I thought, but didn’t say: Next year in Jerusalem.
It sounded like a psalm, more stately than what I actually said:
"Next year in Nantucket."