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Off Owl’s Head a poem

Thorpe Moeckel

Off Owl’s Head a poem Thorpe Moeckel


Leslie Jill Patterson Nonfiction Editor

Dennis Covington Poetry Editor

Carrie Jerrell

Literary Review The Trifecta

June 2014

Fiction Editor

Katie Cortese Managing Editors

Chase Dearinger Michael Palmer

Associate Editors: Kathleen Blackburn, Erin Castle, Allison Donahue, Joseph Dornich, Rachel Furey, Jo Anna Gaona, Micah Heatwole, Christine Kitano, Beth McKinney, Scott Morris, Brent Newsom, Dominic Russ, Jerry Staley, Robby Taylor, and Sarah Viren. Copyright © 2014 Iron Horse Literary Review. All rights reserved. Iron Horse Literary Review is a national journal of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. It is published six times a year at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, through the support of the TTU President’s Office, Provost’s Office, Graduate College, College of Arts & Sciences, and English Department.

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Cover Art: Arthur Lerner, Coastscape III, 60 x 72, oil on canvas (1985-1986)

Off Owl’s Head

Otter & Dix Islands, Mussel Ridge, West Penobscot Bay

With thanks to John, Marielynn, Curtis, Joel, Walt, Sharon; and to the Simmons family for the work, the barn to build. —May 2005, flood rains

Being on an island doesn’t focus you. Where. I mean who said.

The sea. The night out there talking to itself.

Thorpe Moeckel


Another seal, whiskered periscope.

Like the rockweed, the knotted wrack.

The way the mussel shells—little saucers of rain— contain every cloud.


Off Owl’s Head

Spruce where in the morning if I wake

or not warblers will percolate through gaps in branches that always know their place.

Thorpe Moeckel


The way it snaps you in pieces, the way it tears you new little toes.

I’m feeling glorious, thank you. No stars in a week.

Very forever.


Off Owl’s Head

A jagged landscape. But not the roots.

Or say the spruce are ghosts of a taller race.

Thorpe Moeckel


Two and a half miles offshore & easily

eight weeks of work the weather won’t let us have any part of.

A barn needs built— the money, the wood, it changed hands.


Off Owl’s Head

Talk’s cheaper even than talk. I like the puddles. They call those ruts,

but they are puddles.

Thorpe Moeckel


Guillemot, eider, gull. Slow fluttering of kelp.

Again the again.

And then the kelp.


Off Owl’s Head


Someday I will say once

because something will be different. Until then.

Thorpe Moeckel


Storm-orphaned, the mind is a bait basket. There’s no homesickness quite

as sweet,

quite as at home.


Off Owl’s Head

Walt finds a pipestem, not too tide-scoured, Glasgow still legible. Probably 150 years old, Walt says.

But tell me I want to know how old is now. Chop onions, says Walt. They’ll say.

Thorpe Moeckel


Because spring’s a dirty bomb. Because every morning

idles higher. Push the choke. Wonder it.


Off Owl’s Head

Some matter now of letting matter

matter, even

if everything else never stopped.

Thorpe Moeckel


Or this: yellow warbler

like a scrap of brush fire from spruce to lichen and then back

to the mist from which it nursed its voice.


Off Owl’s Head

The light has turned to water and turned distance

to a shrinkage. What to do but wear it, another skin that feathers in.

Thorpe Moeckel


The names for things are no longer their names. There are too many whitecaps for that.

The whitecaps are no longer that many. The names for many are white names.

There are too many.


Off Owl’s Head

I’m trawled from sleep’s bottom by the slap of fetch or the granite’s cold response.

World’s breathing hard.

The clouds are gilled. They are gills. They run their nets.

Thorpe Moeckel


We check moorings. We check the haul off.

The eyes whitecaps, the fingers a cold spray.

Eiders, now, in every vein.


Off Owl’s Head

Don’t know anything more

except there’s a bird on a limb, and the rain is birchbark,

the sky is birchbark,

and so are the stones.

Thorpe Moeckel


Always felt

younger than this. Always felt older either.


Off Owl’s Head

Another seal,

all torso & opal stare. The moon’s full.

The sublime can go suck an egg, just leave me the shell.

Thorpe Moeckel



I would give to lash the shore of you, to run your keel,

my love far away.


Off Owl’s Head

Wind-snapped spruce, waves lapping its crown. One gull and then another, quick as motes and as quiet.

Warblers, too, maybe nesting, maybe heading north come night.

Thorpe Moeckel


The word is rote, but rote is not what the waves are saying

as we move boats on a float that rocks harder than the rocks are hard. It’s night,


Off Owl’s Head

not still, far from it.

Chafe’s from two directions, John shouts. Tearing up the wood, tearing up the chine.

So fast, sure notes with rope—No, let’s run the damn thing aground.

Thorpe Moeckel


Too wet for work, too much of a blow.

Rain for the ninth day in a row and rain, they say, for another five.

The seals don’t do anything different.


Off Owl’s Head

Time grows invalid.

The island doesn’t sink; the water covers it.

Low tide or not, the ledge wears the rain as rugosa wears the wind, winnowing the spray, mist—a droplet, another.

Thorpe Moeckel


Brushstrokes of alder in an old foundation. Once more, the cloud lace. Once more, evening to send out its flares.

Somewhere we might come back to ourselves. Here or smear, not likely here.


Off Owl’s Head

To the knees in ferns, to the nipples in cowslip. Leeward, the eider clumsy as they burst from nest. Pea blossom, clover. Kelp in torn strands, vagrant bacon.

Thorpe Moeckel


Somebody groans.

The sleeping bags make their synthetic noise.

Diesel chug of lobsterboat. With luck, Walt’s up. There, yes, there’s the smell of coffee.


Off Owl’s Head

Barnacles like the stone’s wool,

surface tension holding the rain under limb, grass. Blossoms closed but bright.

Gulls spelling out the original language.

Thorpe Moeckel


Outer islands mute in the fog, formalwear of the eider drake,

a hen bursting from her nest in the cowslip, knocking a snail to another path of slither.


Off Owl’s Head

The urchins turned to currency. Amazement was on the house. How the light went blood where it was juiced,


Thorpe Moeckel


First sun in a week

and now it’s nearly under.

The gulls, vocal as erosion and as pale, run their errands.

They drift.


Off Owl’s Head

These days I’m closer to the birch than my own life,

and every tree’s further, green gauze & all, from the sky than the tide. So what

if I’ve never loved the way I’m losing it now.

Thorpe Moeckel


Thanks guts me. Distance grinds my spruce. For days I praise the murk, disarray of needles on moss.

First bunchberry, first lady’s slipper.


Off Owl’s Head

Morning gathers & rolls. A kind of skin.

Islands visible then gone. Lobsterboats in the where.

No grass for the rain. A little grass for the rain.

Thorpe Moeckel


Blue iris shiver, blue iris shivering.

Move a little, the edge changes. Playing follow the food. In the duff, the duff,

and a few eider eggs sucked clean.


Off Owl’s Head

Another driftwood keepsake. Leave it there.

Let the rollers have it on the flood, satin in their approach, satin & moon-based in their going back.

Thorpe Moeckel


Cormorant, pot warp, squall— it’s not the names but the twitch in the throat.

And to think the bottom is trap after trap, granite & ledge and eel grass & sand & kelp. Coasts, countries.

The sea an island, the island a cloud.


Off Owl’s Head

Author’s Note Thorpe Moeckel teaches in the writing program at Hollins University. He’s the author of three books of poems—Odd Botany (Silverfish Review Press, 2002), Making a Map of the River (Iris Press, 2008), and Venison: a poem (Etruscan Press, 2010). Chapbooks include Meltlines and The Guessing Land. His work has been the recipient of NEA, Javits, Hoyns, and Kenan Fellowships. His next book of poetry, Arcadia Road: A Trilogy, will be published in 2015 by Etruscan Press. Artist’s Note Arthur Lerner received a BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1951 and 1952, respectively. He also studied in Europe at the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere, Paris. Among his many grants and awards are a Fulbright Grant for Study in Italy, an Award for Drawing from the Chicago Festival of the Arts, and a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship. Lerner’s work is in many museums and public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of American Art (Washington, DC), and the U.S. State Department Cultural Division. Distinguished Professor Emeritus from Chicago City Colleges, Lerner also spent many summers in Maine, painting the coastal landscape.

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Off Owl's Head, by Thorpe Moeckel  

The 2014 IHLR Poetry Trifecta

Off Owl's Head, by Thorpe Moeckel  

The 2014 IHLR Poetry Trifecta