Howard Winn‘s writing has been published in such journals as Harbinger Asylum, Southern Humanities Review, Dalhousie Review, Long Story, Galway Review, Antigonish Review, Stand, and Blueline. He has a novel being published this fall. His B. A. is from Vassar College, M. A. from Stanford University, and doctoral work at N. Y. U. He is Professor of English at SUNY
RESIDENT IN MAINE
A lobsterman lives in the house next door.
Traps are piled high in his back yard
where tall grass untouched by mower
reaches for the sky between wires.
A small dingy retired from sea duty,
and mounted like a wind sock,
moves to mark the direction of sea breeze
in his front yard.
He fixes his roof when not tending traps.
An auto mechanic lives on the other side,
although a boat cradled in a trailer
waits for some eventual launch
that will clean the grease from under his nails.
He needs to go to sea,
if only for a vacation to feel the water roll
under his feet and salt air fill his lungs,
abandoning his cars marooned on the hydraulic lifts.
When the weather is right we three families
hear the crash of surf that sounds like a distant train
pounding over metal rails going somewhere.
Landsman that I am,
I am a stranger to the sea,
but not to these neighbors
who tolerate someone from away,
as they say.
I can smell the salt in the air,
and watch the sea birds sail silently
into the wind that keeps them still
as they move.
I fill the small tank of my gas-powered push mower
and prepare to pull the starter cord to fire up
the Toro machine that will keep my half acre
of Maine grass tidy and at a proper height
to match a neighbor’s groomed turf
whose lawn looks out over Smugglers’ Cove.
Once a week the Lawn Service and Landscaping
Professionals from Lawn Doctor pull up in the
massive pick-up truck hauling a double long trailer,
carrying two mowing tractors,
John Deere for these pros,
much beyond my modest machine,
to wheel and dodge around trees or ornamentals,
accumulating grass cuttings to tow away.
Flowering bushes are trimmed or dead-headed
by stalwart young men always wearing t-shirts
and shorts, sometimes directed from within the
pristine homes by young wives raising the
boisterous children who roam the street after school.
Of course, neither they nor their equally sleek
young professional husbands whose only connection
with their yards is to tend the propane grill for burgers
or steaks, both beef and fish, this being Maine.
During the weekly ritual of care and beatification,
the pick-up trucks and the trailers, often two or more
services at the same time, narrows our semi-bucolic
lane to one narrow track where in misty weather one can hear
the foghorn from the Portland Head Light, as well as
the bell buoys rocking in Casco Bay, so that the SUVs
stack up to claim the single pathway past the trucks.
All the drivers are polite and wait their turn,
because in their domain the Lawn and Landscaping Services
are essential to their white collared privileged realm,
and the self-image of success each treasure in Cape Elizabeth.
On a banner posted on the fence
guarding the bank
from stray vehicles
and errant bicycles
there was an announcement
where civic events
are always publicized
Garden Tour it said
assemble in the bank’s Parking Lot
for the grand excursion
from planting to planting
as envisioned by the
Garden Services who come
weekly with truck and trailer
carrying machines to curry
and comb the colorful gardens
decorating front lawns while
the mere owners pay the bills
that support the limited imagination
of the workers who will plow
your driveway in the winter
but never read Home and Garden
between cashing those big
checks for mowing and weeding
during the Spring and Summer
for flamboyance, will do if
creativity is deficient or lacking.
But money is a necessity in
large amounts and not missed.