We took that ferry ride too many times.
It was a way to shave an hour off
the trip, less of a grind than the Expressway.
But it was boring, and the only way
to put up with it was to ritualize it.
So, with the car stowed in what I guess
would not, on ferry boats, be called the hold,
we stood on deck and watched the concrete pier
receding, watched where we had been get small.
We felt the engine’s hum more than we heard it.
Something kept us determined to look back
until land disappeared, and this at last
was like an upper and a lower lid,
sky and water, gradually colluding
until the rickety, unlovely port
was gone as if our own eyes closed on it.
Then for a short time there was only water
lapping away on all sides, nothing yet
apparent as a haven in the offing—
so we noticed, turning about face. Somehow
we never felt as drawn to that so-far-
unspotted destination as we’d been
to what we had seen vanish. At midpoint,
the ferry’s twin passed by us with a hoot,
chugging to where we’d come from, as if both
boats were hauled along by a double pulley.
Car fumes, boat fumes, just a slim whiff of salt;
blasé occasional seagulls, more than occasional
children bickering, parents buying them soda.
We must have felt at least a dim unease
at the hiatus that our fare had paid for;
we kept close to each other the whole time.
The water now was army-colored, empty
except for the odd sailboat in the distance,
and except for our own cargo of noise
the Sound was largely silent.
It’s been years
since I have driven on or off that boat.
Now when it swashes into my dreams, it’s all
much as it was on the vibrating deck
except that I’m alone and facing forward,
for a change having become impatient
to see what hasn’t yet come into view.
All around me wrinkles the sullen water
we got across so often in one piece,
even emptier now than I remember.
I always wake before shore is in sight.
Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Shaw. Reprinted from A Late Spring, and After (Pinyon Publishing).
Robert B. Shaw
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