Waiting for the Boats

Waiting for the Boats

most of the village had gathered

at the dock to await

the return of the fishing boats

wild storms the past two days

worry has made the nights even darker

the usual distractions

offered brief respite from our concerns

none could take the choir seriously

no one wanted to listen

to the moose bone prognosticator

even his words of good cheer

felt flat and hopeless

the village elders could read the clouds

with greater accuracy

than any of the soothsayers

reading those tumbling moose bones


we had being on the dock since early morning

since before the dawn of time it seemed

anxiety rippled through the crowd

as each cloud became clearer with the rising sun

‘that one looks like a grand piano’

which meant to some a grand catastrophe

and to others a rhapsody of a catch

by noon there wasn’t a cloud in the sky

and there was no sign of the fleet

some of the older boys had been sent as scouts

to the hill that overlooked the far side of the inlet

to see if they could see anything

their tiny ant arms signalled

that nothing was seen

this was not a good thing

no one was willing to leave the dock


some of the women started weeping

till they were told to get back to the washing

with that the crowd began to disperse

aimlessly we went back our normal routine

which for us children was

skulking and malingering

thinking of ways to get out growing up

and having to face the fishless future

we knew the fleet would never come back

that our way of life was now ended

all the prophecies were coming true

life was pointless struggle only made painful by hope


there were two suicides before night fall

the spirit had left our village so quickly

the leaves on the maple trees

in Whistling Woods shuddered

with no breeze


as the sun dipped beneath the horizon

a wisp of smoke scuttled across the sun

the first of the boats was returning

I wrote the Village Stories many years ago & although they are familiar for many of them I have no recollection of actually writing them. These versions have been checked for typos once or twice but were then left to simmer. Some where performed, collected into a sequence & some, like this one, were kept but ignored. I’m looking at them with fresh eyes.

I am working with some standard East Coast tropes in this one – the waiting for the boats to come in is real enough – though I never did it. Storms could wipe out a fleet overnight. I knew of men & women who would look at the sky & predict what the weather would be like the next day & sometimes they were right.

‘that one looks like a grand piano’ comes from Chekov’s The Seagull – seagulls the sea side cliche – so it was fitting to use it here in an attempt to show off my deep literary roots without distracting from the scene 🙂 Of course no Village Story is compete without a mention of the moose.

The sense of waiting also reflects families waiting after a coal mine accident – the deep concern for whose husband was not coming back to the surface. The fishing & mining families lived with this fear constantly. A sudden rough sea could swallow fishermen on event the calmest days. It couldn’t be predicted. There’s also sense of the loss of the fishing industry on the east coast – lobster is still harvested but the industry was destroyed by corporate greed & then the fishermen were blamed.

It’s also a lateralization of the cliche ‘waiting for one’s ship to come in’ – the kids questioning the value of the cargo of the future, the women getting on with routine rather that waiting, people unable to enjoy what they have because of their anticipation of the ship, giving up before it arrives. So, for me, the piece succeeds on several levels as all good mythology does.

Hello sailor.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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