Triptych for Plymouth, Massachusetts
By Jean L. Kreiling
1. Watching Water Street
At Nelson Park, the seagulls congregate
beside the bay, discuss the tides, then rise
as one to scan their Water Street estate –
and maybe us – with ancient, beady eyes.
We walk on, passing homes and shops; the street
grows busy, traffic thickens. Sunlight plays
on harbor sails, and restaurants compete
to profit from the tourists’ hungry gaze.
A few more steps lead to the storied rock,
the ship, the native chief perched on the hill:
icons that illustrate a tour guide’s stock
of truth and fables – we see what we will.
We wonder, as we eat our clams and slaw
beside the bay, what Massasoit saw.
2. Remember Allerton, ca. 1615 – ca. 1655
(a passenger on the Mayflower, whose name is inscribed on the Forefathers Monument in Plymouth)
They called their child “Remember.” Did they know
she’d live a story no one should forget?
At five years old, the little girl would go
to sea aboard a crowded ship beset
by wind and waves, foreshadowing a year
of hardships; that first New World winter took
her mother. Did Remember live in fear?
Amid disease and hunger, did she look
ahead to better days? She would survive
for decades more, but all her minor fame
stems from her childhood story, kept alive
by tour guides and carved stone that bears her name –
the girl who traveled here one bleak November,
and now, long gone, demands that we remember.
3. The Bug Light
(the local name for the Duxbury Pier Lighthouse in Plymouth)
From my spot on the beach, it’s straight ahead.
I’m sure of this, just as I’m confident
about its shape, and colors – white and red.
But sometimes atmospheric whims have bent
what I perceive: fog makes it hard to see,
or clouds veil its complexion in dull gray.
Though I once thought it changed because of me –
my moods, my aging eyes, the interplay
of faulty memory with expectations –
my frailties alter nothing. And in fact,
the Bug Light changes me: its affirmations
that shifting skies leave some good things intact
lend me the buoyancy of gulls in flight,
my blood and bones charged with a bit more light.
Copyright © 2021 by Jean L. Kreiling.