Kumba, my Gloucester Pangur Bán

by Eric Schoonover

This poem was inspired by “Pangur Bán,” a 9th-Century
Irish poem about a scholar monk and his cat.

 

KUMBA                                  Photo SBPollack

Cats are such fine fellows
neat and fierce, quick and soft.

Their lives are tidy at the edges
carefully surveying all—before the leap.

In that ancient poem, Pangur’s dedication to mousing
is likened to his monk’s devoted writing.

They labor in their different vineyards (yet close by)
catching mice, discovering meaning in the text, each

wrapped in deadly silent focus: the mouse upon the
floor, the portending skull upon the desk.
   Sic transit gloria mundi.

 I met my Pangur on a dark and stormy, boldly
crying at my door with impatient ice-matted fur

the neighbor’s cat neglected neighbors told.
I let him in, he stayed for years

and we nourished each other’s silent padding ways
tho my pen would scratch and he would purr,

signatures of our contented ways. But Kumba’s
gone. Another neighbor? No, I fear the car

as we live against a fast street, challenging
our arthritic days. But then . . .

in a ninth life, he stands moaning at the door
ear torn, blood-matted but eyes still bright.

I let him in, he leans against my leg as if a dog.
Mice beware! The challenge of my page awaits!
. . . and our lives resume.

 

KUMBA with the author.  Photo credit SBPollack

Eric Schoonover is a writer, boatbuilder, and watercolorist, who lives in Gloucester in a small 1735 Cape Ann cottage with his wife, also a writer. He is the author of the award-winning The Gloucester Suite and Other Poems and a novel, Flowers of the Sea. His latest book, Telling Tales, has recently been published.

 

SPRING

By Eric Schoonover

Gloucester Harbor, 1894.                  Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

 

When they put up the signs NO PUBLIC TOILETS

I’ll know. And when the daffodils bloom in

front of the bank on Rogers and the gulls

fight and flutter over the chimneys, I’ll know.

When the sailing team yanks their amazing 420s through

the wretched gusts in the harbor; and when the

night thermometer reads 38 and it’s rain and rain,

then I’ll know it’s spring in Gloucester . . . maybe.

 

 

Eric Schoonover is a writer who does enjoy Gloucester’s spring. Eric is also a  boatbuilder and watercolorist, who lives in Gloucester in a small 1735 Cape Ann cottage with his wife, also a writer. He is the author of the award-winning The Gloucester Suite and Other Poems and a novel, Flowers of the Sea. His latest book, Telling Tales, has just been published.

 

 

To An Unseen Loon

Loon © Marianne Thompson

by Barbara Beckwith

 

Listening for

Your loud loon-laugh

Lets me hear soft sounds

Bushes washing the harbor’s edge

Insect swarms, oardrip.

 

Searching for

Your long body skimming over water

Leads me to see secret shapes in driftwood,

Read meanings into your unseen deep dives

And surprise surfacings.

 

If by chance

I ever finally see you,

Mid one wild cry, I may lose you,

Your full mad beauty being half mine.

 

So if you dive deep and don’t come up

Except where I’m not looking,

I won’t mind.

Don’t let me make a poem out of you.

 

Barbara Beckwith writes essays, journalism, and poetry, often focused on her experiences with nature. She lives in Cambridge but often visits Gloucester, not to fish, sail, or lounge on its beaches, but to allow its slower pace to renew her writing.

The Skiff

model by author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Eric Schoonover

Maybe we’ll go down to the beach
letting the water come up to our knees.

There’s a skiff there, in the weeds,
empty and waiting, its oars akimbo:

inviting.  We’ll troll, maybe, my fingers
over the side, to feel the water

mutter and slide, catching so many
motes as my hand can hold. But then

the plash and now the squeak of the oarlocks
do take us away, furtive. Maybe I’ll look

at your legs, brown, and beyond, facing me
and maybe I’ll think of our love that’s

always been held by the water.
Maybe we’ll float off the boat

and our bodies will then drift
to the isles where it all began.

Where maybe we’ll hold so
tight, against the harbor’s

famed serpent, now wilting, sliding
our firm lustrous bodies into a lasting kiss.

 

SPollack Photo

Eric Schoonover is a writer living in Gloucester. His most recent book, Telling Tales: A Gathering of Stories was published in 2016. Harboring, a novel about a Gloucester artist, will be published in 2018.

Crossing the Bar Again

Lobstering Off Eastern Point                                                    © Jeff Weaver

In the slosh and tumble of waves around ledges,
at the favored lobster spots close to shore, the white working boat
maneuvers about rocks, gear shift growling,
runs down on pots, the men scooping them up,
hauling traps aboard, pulling the writhing bugs out, checking length
sometimes tossing most of them back in
thinking it’s time to shift the pots further offshore.
It seems the hold is never quite full,
when they turn the helm to home.

It’s not all work, for there is a time
for awe and wonder in going
to and fro, in foggy uncertainty, or clear air
when the horizon is crisp and stark,
or when clouds boil, flowering in blue sky,
or when the black of a coming storm menace,
or in the calm of sunrise, waters flat as can be,
never the same from day to day,
but same never-the-less.
You’re on your own out there.

They do not visit this place
as the yachtsmen do, to pleasure the day
they live this world, all of it, its peace and hell alike.

Then back home again and out on the town
into dazzling lights, dark bars, a drink
having fun with women
punk rock songs and randy jokes.

Saint Joseph certainly must be there,
with faith’s wafer and wine certainty and protection
warding off threat of wave and rock
in the heave and thrust of swells
uneven footing, a dangerous winch cable
screaming on its spool.

There is a muscle taut energy
in this small 35-foot lobster boat
heir to the fast Grand Bank fishing schooners,
proud large trawlers, the great hauls.
These rock crawling scavengers
are all that’s left to harvest now,
bend the muscles to.
It’s traps now, was nets then, always the haul,
the heft of the prey on the deck
in the heave and rolling wave of the sea.

The big thing to think about
what many of us do not
is who and where we are in this world.
So few know, but those whose working rhythm
is embedded in it, do.

A Saint Joseph medallion dangles from the rear-view mirror
of their pickup loaded with traps and pots
and its angry foul bumper stickers.
But when some mindless snob on autopilot
with cutters on his flashy yachts’ prop
tears through a line of pots all the day’s money’s gone
What’s Saint Joseph to do then
you have to keep asking.
Oh, they’re not paying what they used to, 3 bucks a pound,
not worth it sometimes when they’re 10 bucks afterward.
Every day, passing by the Dog Bar, offloading the stuff,
tired, returning to the slip, tie up, disembark
and, bone hope weary, might take to drink again.

In the coherence of this life,
(the faith and ceremonies, a Cardinal’s blessing
once a year doesn’t do much)
no matter how small it seems
faith punctuates the daily chores,
but it’s the rhythm of the lobsterman’s life
out and back again, bait and reap
that sustains as it does for all working men,
the doing of it.

Kent Bowker

 

Kent Bowker started with poetry at Berkeley in the Fifties, then became a physicist working mainly in optics.  His new book of poems is Katharsis: Sifting Through a Mormon Past.  He lives in Essex, next to the Great Marshes and is treasurer of the Charles Olson Society.

 

Desert Penguin

by  

Eric Schoonover

Gloucester Winter © T. M. Nicholas

Gloucester Winter © T. M. Nicholas

I walk down the street that looks at the sea:
Gorton’s smoke and smells muddle, and I feel like a desert
penguin, scuffing the gaudy snow that falls and falls
and I look at the sea with its own wavy snowspots.

You said I could see over to County Mayo; hardly. But our
cousin’s from there. The harbor-birds hunch aboard housetops,
as I walk down the street that looks at the sea. They think of
a take-off, but then worry a full-flap landing, flashing the snow.

There’s nothing of her distant Ireland in view. Just wind, that’s all
and our cousin slaps the mop at the messy snow that I’ve tracked
on the floor as the window looks at the sea, streaked with its
melting snowdrops. Then she mingles her whiskey with weeping.

I feel that my life must flop in the snow and I borrow from the
colleen’s brew, for my days are like shadows constantly seeking
the white of the snow, of the flecked sea, of purity of thought
. . . as I walk down the street that looks at the sea.

11-13 February 2017

 

eric-schoonoverEric Schoonover, Professor Emeritus of American literature and literature of the sea, lives in a small 1735 Cape Ann cottage with his wife, a writer. His most recent book, Telling Tales, was published in 2016.

 

Peace on Earth

Winter in Gloucester Frederick Mulhhaupt (1871-1938)

Winter in Gloucester                                   Frederick Mulhhaupt (1871-1938)

I love the smell of evergreen
in a not-yet frost-covered Wood.
Mother Nature provides the forest scenes
that do our Spirits good.
I’m grateful for the sounds I hear,
like the music of my Grandchildren’s laughter.
A cherished gift my heart will hold dear
this Season, and ever after.
I’m grateful for the sights I see,
like the love in the eyes of my wife.
Special moments with friends and family
are the most precious gifts of Life.
No expensive present or shiny things
can fill my heart with mirth.
It’s the little things that Christmas brings
which provide my Peace on Earth.

 

 

jimmy-tarantinoJames Tarantino (Jimmy T.) is an exemplary outdoor enthusiast who heralds his love of family, his friends, and his passion for all things Gloucester.

October

Autumn at the Shore. Joseph Eliot Enneking (1881 - 1942)

Autumn at the Shore.                            Joseph Eliot Enneking (1881 – 1942)

The leaves are falling

The dense green wall of foliage slowly disappears

into yellows, oranges, mixed greens,

the growing bronze of towering oaks,

dots of scarlet here and there,

and in this thinning, vistas opening up:

more than we can,

for it is about us, of course in the long run

though we may not see it that way,

for the vistas opening here, always it seems

to the sea.

The sea that surrounds this island of Beau Port, Gloucester

or the sea tide that floods the marshes

our island sea

it’s sad for those who cannot open up

closeted in importance, or lost in drug fueled evasion

who can’t feel the ebb and flooding surges

of this sea in us and around us.

Kent Bowker
October 20, 2016

 

Kent BowkerKent Bowker started with poetry at Berkeley in the Fifties, then became a physicist working mainly in optics.  His new book of poems is Katharsis: Sifting Through a Mormon Past.  He lives in Essex, next to the Great Marshes and is treasurer of the Charles Olson Society.

 

 

Telling Tales: A Gathering of Stories by Eric Schoonover

pod9781495129094_0

Telling Tales: A Gathering of Stories by Eric Schoonover

A Review by Peter Anastas

(Dogbar Publications, Gloucester, 2016, 142 pp.,  $15)

 

“We tell stories for as many reasons as we live. They celebrate the beginnings and endings of our lives. They are the hand that rocks the cradle, the hand that wraps the shroud. They give meaning to the long or short haul of our lives.” –from the Preface

 

In Telling Tales, Gloucester poet and novelist Eric Schoonover has given us a collection of essays as finely written as they are delightful to read.   Each essay explores an arresting theme and tells a particular story, so that in reading them we are doubly rewarded.

We experience the taste of dates in Egypt with their author, who shares his thoughts about the role of memory in our lives.  In an essay that dramatizes issues of class and companionship, we accompany Schoonover as a young college instructor, who travels from his Eastern American classroom to Washington State to join a fire fighting crew in the Palouse hills.  We’re with him in a car race in which a relationship is also explored, and we assist him in building “Tuva,” his Micro sailboat, which still plies the waters off Cape Ann (he also builds a bed for his grandson Jacob to whom the book is dedicated).  Most powerfully, we climb into the mountains of Switzerland, where Schoonover travels to scatter the ashes of his parents near the small Genevan village where the family spent several memorable vacations.

Yet for all their variety and Schoonover’s scintillating prose, these essays are seamlessly constructed, as befits the boat builder who wrote them.  The word essay comes from the French essai, which means “an attempt.”  In writing an essay one begins by setting down tentative thoughts about a subject.  In the process we may also be trying to discover what we actually think about that subject, and what we want to say about it once we begin to write.

Essays have generally been categorized as “formal” or “familiar.” Formal essays usually consist of an impersonal analysis of a subject, while familiar essays are generally written from a personal point of view and  tell us as much about the writer as his or her subject.

Our era may well be one in which we have witnessed the primacy of the familiar essay, through the popularity of personal essays and memoirs, the profusion of Op Ed columns, and, more recently, the explosion of individual blogs, in which writers write as much about themselves as they do about their subjects.  Yet the new digital technologies (not to speak of texting and Twittering) with their inherent demands to think and write fast, and therefore more superficially, have helped to create a literary culture in which care of construction and thoughtfulness of intent have often been eclipsed by the pressure to post or respond to other posts.  While this has arguably afforded more democracy of access and expression (everybody is now seen to be a writer), the inevitable consequence has been a sacrifice of depth.

For this reason Eric Schoonover’s Telling Tales is all the more welcome.   The personal voice is here in these wonderfully luminous essays, which are both autobiographical and a history of the sources and growth of a literary sensibility.  We come to understand who the author is through the gathering details of his life—fishing with his father as a child; experiencing his first misunderstanding by a teacher in the rural Western Massachusetts school he first attended, in a town where he was the only paperboy; teaching English and literature in a variety of settings; and traveling to remote places whose cultures fascinate him, with his family as a child and later as a mature traveler and writer

With this collection Schoonover has in effect restored the essay to its proper place as an invaluable yet ever flexible mode of expression and exposition, a means of coming at the world in multiple ways, while sharing with the reader what the writer has discovered during the journey.

In describing what he has set out to achieve in this rewarding book, Schoonover quotes Joseph Conrad’s own reason for writing: “I want to make you see.”   And we do see through Schoonover’s eyes some of the world he has experienced and remembered, just as we feel through language that rises to poetry what he has felt and wishes to share with us.

Telling Tales may be a slender book in terms of page length, but it is brimming with the kinds of wisdom, humor, insight and sheer intelligence that are certain to make a lasting impression on the reader.

 

eric schoonover

Eric Schoonover is a writer, boatbuilder and watercolorist, who lives in Gloucester in a small 1735 Cape Ann cottage with his wife, also a writer. He is the author of the award-winning The Gloucester Suite and Other Poems and a novel, Flowers of the Sea. His latest book, Telling Tales, has just been published.

A Gloucester Rengu (linked haiku)

Digital Collage by Bing McGilvray

Digital Collage by Bing McGilvray

The bronze face stares
Out, beyond breakwater’s edge,
Yellow moon rising..

Squawking roof ridge  gulls
Gossiping, suddenly rise,
White-black globs falling

Bronze hands hold the wheel
Tight against the bashing sea
Heavy rain forecast.

Wildly tumbling gulls
Diving  behind a trawler,
Pierless occupation.

Lost fishermen’s names
One hundred on George’s Bank
Record Catch report.

Where pink beach roses
Edge rocks, furious seas break,
Gabbianos peck.

Children anxious,
Have all the boats returned?
Widow’s walk crowded,

San Pietro coming
Held high by six owners, wobbling,
Sinking memories.

The swift sweeping tide
Rushing past Annisquam Light,
Madly tacking, pushed back..

Ferrini moon danced
Olson delivered mail
Thunderous acclaim.

Babson’s tales in Maximus
Olson’s great poem,
Rants in the G D News.

Only lobsters now
Great cod landings a memory,
Avaricious failure.

Smiles passing by on main street
Fresh bread, Sicilia’s,
Fog lifts slowly in the morning.

Soaring  high hunter,
Quick, red tail searching Dogtown.
Silent lobsters crawl.

Sea waves never stop
For famous Cape Ann’s Artists,
Loving the beauty.

Great granite ledges
Quarried deep swimming pools,
Delicate Heron.

Kent Bowker 5/24/2016

Kent BowkerKent Bowker started with poetry at Berkeley in the Fifties, then became a physicist working mainly in optics.  His new book of poems is Katharsis: Sifting Through a Mormon Past.  He lives in Essex, next to the Great Marshes and is treasurer of the Charles Olson Society.