Murray Harbor North

Grazing Holsteins on the hillside chew their cud indifferent

to the pandemonium on the wharf. Lobster boats drift in stillness,

reflected upside-down along with boat houses and shore-line barns

in the barely rippling waters of the bay. Flashing red lights and blare

of ear-piercing sirens announce the arrival of the Mounties.

Ospreys, fish eating raptors, hover overhead hungry

for a feed, challenge swirling flocks of screeching gulls.

Fishermen gather in clusters puffing on Player’s,

drinking Labatts and Moosehead beer, scratching their

heads in disbelief wondering how could this happen?

They knew men were lost at sea almost every year,

snagged in ropes hauling double traps in six foot heavy swells,

tangled in antiquated winches, failing headgear, busted pulleys,

and wire cables whipping through the air. A sturdy seaman, solid

as an iron mooring buoy, would hardly ever meet his Maker on the land.

With rum and beer for breakfast barnacled-faced fishermen

are men against the sea, have no mind for life preservers

in this roiling province of blue-black waters they mine

for lobsters, herring, cod and scallops. Salt spray is in their bones,

they choose to live no other way.

Leo Jamieson staggers off his boat, almost swamped with fish.

Through bleary tired eyes he watches a crew unload the haul,

slurping down one scallop after another until one gets stuck.

He gags in fright his ruddy face blanching white, no air

can reach his lungs, lungs that once blew a sweet tin whistle

while others played on bodhran bones and spoons.

Village families line up at the wake in somber rows.

The local priest, young and handsome, still the picture

in his high school yearbook, reminds mourners :

God’s ways are not our ways.

Leo, always garrulous and boisterous, no longer dances jigs.

Tunes no longer heard; he now lies quiet as a stone.

Milton P. Ehrlich