Flying Santa, 1961
The white-haired man who wrote
True Tales of Terrible Shipwrecks, who dove
from tops of lighthouses into the Atlantic,
dropped Christmas boxes from a little plane
to lighthouse keepers from Cape Cod to Maine,
I saw his big white bottom — not in the sky
but by the tailgate of his Chevrolet
as he pulled on his swimming trunks.
That day we rowed with him in falling tide
in winding channels through the marshes
to clam beds where he showed me how to find
breathing holes in the steep black wall of mud
and dig down quickly to the underworld
of brine and stink and wheezing cherrystone.
The ziggurats of black and blue
the broken tile of a dream
impossible to sweep up
in the middle of the night
–no broom, no light.
On waking, knowing what
the shards of tile weighed
and how they cut your palms
and how they hurt your eyes
yet how the pattern stayed.
Susan Carlisle has published her poems in a range of literary journals and magazines, such as Epoch, Agni, The Women’s Review of Books, and Many Mountains Moving. She teaches writing at MIT and lives south of Boston.