Ten Below, Corea Harbor

Dec 22, 2017

Today’s poem is "Ten Below, Corea Harbor” Douglas Woodsum. He’s taught at two universities and five public schools and published poetry in dozens of literary magazines and journals. With his students, he has published twelve annual anthologies of oral history, folklore, and creative writing.

“Ten Below, Corea Harbor” is from his book, The Lawns of Lobstermen. He writes “After three unfruitful years in a graduate writing program, I decided I really did want to be a fruitful poet, and I’d teach myself. I told my father I’d be working on my writing all day and finding night jobs to support myself. He suggested I go to (the town of) Corea and use his summer home as my art colony, and he’d pay the bills. During five winter months (there), I read thousands of pages of poetry, wrote hundreds of pages of poetry, and published my first poems. I was in my twenties, my Dad in his fifties, within the setting of this poem. Now he’s 86. I can’t read the fifth line from the end without a tear or two welling up. My Dad was my first real patron. This poem is the closest thing to a love poem to him I’ve written.”

Ten Below, Corea Harbor 
by Doug Woodsum

For introducing me to the cold
I love my father. With guns aboard
We’d row to the anchored boat to fire
It up and head to the ledges for duck.

So cold, only fools—hunters and fishers—
About, that one and only time
The harbor froze: windowpane-thin ice
That cracked and tinkled against the hull.

The water and ice both made soft sounds.
Sometimes the ice seemed to rip, but still
It chimed. The thwack of oar against
Gunwale. The sun a mere hint of pink.

Working the engine’s choke, setting
Tollers, minding the ropes, I’d strip
Off my mittens, briefly. That was too much;
The cold would throb my fingertips.

The seawater froze in a glaze that cracked
Underfoot on seaweed-covered ledge,
So we left powdery tracks until
The tide came back. We hunched amid rocks.

Watching, waiting for ducks, we’d fend
Off cold with small talk, eyes squinting
Into low sun, gun safeties clicked on.
We were part of the winter dawn.

It was then I learned to laugh at cold,
Laugh as my father laughed. We never
Considered turning back, those days
When even he was young, my father.

I wish you could know what I knew then:
The closeness in the quiet two men share,
The good shots, the teamwork of crew on land
And sea, the care we took in the cold.

Poem copyright © 2010 Doug Woodsum.
Reprinted from The Lawns of Lobstermen,
Moonpie Press, 2010,
by permission of Doug Woodsum.