BY ELIZABETH SOUTHWOOD
The water today is
cold, ultramarine blue,
polka-dotted with white.
Oars creak as I row.
The cold, damp, salt wind
whips my hair into my eyes.
I've nothing to eat,
feel a coal burning a hole in my gut.
The sound of church bells comes and goes
with the intermittent winter wind,
across the bay, like skipping stones,
announcing Christmas-morning communion,
tintinnabulations from the white, weathered spire
of the church where I sang in summer in the choir.
A chorus of seagulls circles me, calling shrilly.
I found a fish hook yesterday
on the church steps. It is heavy,
with a thick brush like barbers use to
lather whiskers, its lethal hook
hidden in long, stiff bristles,
The rector suggested
I keep it. "It's good luck," he said.
I tucked it in my pocket,
I tied string
to the fishhook,
put an old dory in the water.
It was left tied up to a dock, under a tarp,
BLUE CHRISTMAS, PAGE 2 OF 3 (CONTINUE STANZA) SOUTHWOOD
for the winter,
by the family in the house
closest to the inlet.
I've slept in it
for a few days,
ever since I turned in my car
after I lost my job
I'm almost out of money
My parents are building homes
for poor people in Europe.
I stack newspapers
on the bottom of the boat
and pile my clothes
over an old sleeping bag
under the tarp.
So far, I'm warm enough.
I wash in the sea.
My hair is sticky, my body crusty with salt.
I tried to use fresh water at the church,
but I don't know what numbers to punch in
to unlock the door.
I drop anchor.
My fishing line is tugging like a kite:
I've caught a flounder
by its seemingly translucent tail...and another...a
dozen or more, some by the mouth,
the rest hooked by jagged metal
on various parts of their silvery anatomy.
The wind is coming up.
Waves smack the side of the dory, splash in.
I bail, row back to the dock.
BLUE CHRISTMAS, PAGE 3 OF 3 (NEW STANZA) SOUTHWOOD
I've a driftwood fire now,
with rocks supporting
the sputtering, fragrant flounder.
Christmas music - harpsichord and recorders -
sounds sweetly, faintly, through the cold night air.
The windows in
the old white church glow
gold, scarlet, cobalt blue.
The congregation is ready for
the Christmas potluck.