Rachel Lyman Field

(1894-1942 / the United States)

North of Time


We sat together in the small, square room,
Late sunshine fell across the kitchen floor
In yellow patches. I could hear the boom
Of turning tide along the island shore.
'Why, yes,' the old man shifted in his chair,
'That's Grandfather's own chart hung by the door,
And that's his compass on the shelf up there.
He knew the world and foreign parts before
Most Island boys had learned their A.B.C.'s,
And how to cipher. He stood six feet two,--
It's queer to think a man like that should freeze
Sealing, up north in Greenland, but it's true,
And him not forty. Here I'm eighty odd
And not been south of Boston. Guess he'd say
Folks nowadays are like as peas in a pod,
And one port same's another all the way
Eastport to Hong Kong. He'd be right at that.'
The kettle rocked with steam. The clock ticks told
The minutes off between us as we sat.
His eyes were age-filmed and his hands so old
They might have been dead roots. Dead roots? I thought
It can't be long before he's bound to go
After his Grandfather, to that same port
That's north of time, too far for charts to show
How currents run; what hidden reefs are near;
What headlands jut; what harbors to explore;
Or such a brass-bound compass serve to steer
The cruising souls along an unknown shore.

Submitted: Tuesday, September 07, 2010

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