Down crew-only stairs—paint-chipped rail, hand-grimed bulkheads, watertight door’s caution-striped sill—to crew mess. Sit at sticky, vinyl tablecloth (deep bluewater) before ship’s registry (a white craft afloat). Sign in, sign on: name, address, emergency contact, bank details. Instructions slurried through
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for Arctic Explorer Donald B. MacMillan
All summer, town kids pose at the edge
of the pier named after you
and leap. I’ve just flown home from Baffin,
Mac. A month of spotting polar bears,
lecturing on tundra as raw wind shrugged us off,
then winter chased us down the coast.
But it’s still season here, and so I’m at the gangway
loading a boat to look for whales.
Boys dash between pickups. Girls strut
the edge, do the same. No one throws coins for them,
but I know you jumped for the bright glint
tourists threw, and (I’m sure) for the thrill
of being watched do it. These kids leap
to break the hot September days and because tonight
they might find themselves midair, recorded
by some out-of-towner’s gadget and posted online
for view-count and comment, their currency. Would I
have strutted, have jumped at their age, yours then? I can’t decide.
At high tide, their knees are eye level from my place
on the finger pier. One girl wears a silver bikini.
It shines like ice on the horizon. I can’t help but stare.
Suddenly, I see it is desire
that links us, that galvanizes
the thin substance of our ambitions.