We flew to Nassau on dimes
from tables tended winter-long.
Off-season, it was June,
humid as the Amazon.
First day, drunk on escaping New England,
we hired a small salt-sticky boat,
to troll us by rope over crystal waves
in search of treasure below.
Too sunburned from diving
to endure your touch, I stood
beneath cool spray for hours
weeping, my prize for such pain,
guardian of our virtue,
this huge shell.
Now it moves
from room to room,
as if still inhabited
by a great muscular foot;
this shell, large enough
to hold one salty, sundrenched day,
safe for sixteen years,
We’ve held, too,
to everyone’s surprise.
Too large to fit a windowsill,
it’s found no resting place
so like that nomad love of ours,
still wandering deep
beneath the surface of the waves.
We are easily caught
in the sudden afternoon storms,
dark bursts in moments of blaze.
These are days
when rainbows stripe the heavy air
we hustle children from the pond
then back again, all day.
we grab them from the bath
unplug the TV
race to rip the towels from the line again.
we found piles of hail
flattening emerald fern
took up handfuls of perfect
chilled marbles in wonder.
A swallowtail paused, strangely pulsed
bright gorgeous wings
against these milky pearls of ice.
It is July
the territory of amazement
The Tree-Climber’s Mother, 1964
He wants to know the names of trees
the secrets they whisper to the night
and the soft-voiced things that sip their dew.
She cannot keep him in, cannot dissuade him
from venturing higher, Keds in the barked joints,
toes braced in knotty holes. She waits
for the dreadful shudder
of his dropped weight at the root,
a sound that never comes.
This child is more sure in the trees,
their random freeform limbs,
than on the straight segmented walk that
runs by the drugstore, First Baptist Church
and the bus stop in that small town.
Still he is up in that dizzy oak no father
and no wings and she wonders
are they whispering of her failure
to hold him, grounded,
and what they will do if he falls.
Nature is an indifferent mother, I say
dutiful at best, she does what is required,
but not with tenderness.
That is a lie, you insist—
many animals practice nurturance,
play, camaraderie of a sort,
and choral singing besides.
Whales write new songs for every season,
every task and journey.
This is what you taught me.
Well what else is there to do
in the deep but practice the chords of heaven
through great fortresses of herring,
rock to the gentle hula
of the sea, make love like two spaceships
docking, teach strange iceblue songs
to your little calf, tease ocean liners
as they sludge past your easy grace
with motors and trouble?
© Nancy Henry
Nancy Henry lives in rural Massachusetts with her husband and several farm animals. Previously her poems have appeared in Rattle, Southern Humanities Review, The Cafe Review, and many other publications. She teaches humanities courses in community college.