--for John Bird, inventor, astronomer, mathematician, 1757
Stand at the rail, lift mystery to eye (you only need one to calculate latitude), fix sun at solar noon, Polaris at apex, or use the moon. Dance with her on a darkening sea. You will know where you stand as you float. How many fathoms lie beneath your feet? The watch you started will indeed end. Salt air dries in your nostrils. The ship’s bell rings once, twice, eight times; rolls over waves, across lines of demarcation. We engrave our names on iron gongs. There is irony in yours, Bird – you who gifted navigated flight to those who can’t sense it internally, so we might find our mathematic, feathered way. Wings spread, we hold course within an oak and brass instrument. Adjust for error, for the height of eye above sea level. Or was it heart? Be sure to add the distance from surface to the deck – include thickness of your boots. Pluck a star from the sky. Place it on mirrored horizon, day or night, you will know where you are in time, while the rest of us are left with only enough angle to see water.
John Haines’ Shoes Nobody can fill John’s shoes Best not to try Walk your own way Wherever they take you The poems they abide In you Flow through the pen Whether in the woods The Homestead or your head Make tea on the old stove Have coffee and cookies with your friends The poems They will come As the Magpies do On wing unexpected A flutter and flash Of black and white If once one winter You fed them
A Journal for the North Pacific Rim