Cape Cottage, Maine
Mrs. McNeil wears a scarf,
knee-high boots and gloves like oven mitts.
Seven year old me in shorts and flip-flops
toting a sand pail and shovel.
She walks down exactly 67 steps to the rocks below
striding from memory.
Me hanging on the rail putting the next foot down
like a toe into hot lava.
She sidles along the breakwater to where the buoys bob,
starts a whistling.
Young me leaving the path to where
the narrow spit of sand beckons.
She grapples lobster cages out with a gaff and a song,
the babies and the berried females,
removes the chickens into a black-strapped duffle,
baits and heaves the empty traps,
takes the keepers home for dinner tonight,
retraces steps along the shore
to my burgeoning sand castle, says
Frowny-faced me turns back-to, don't say nothing.
Mrs. McNeil plops down her bag, deep-breathing.
Hows about some help young Bobby
as she pulls an armored monster out of her poke and pops it
in my pail, turns and starts to climbing.
Startled me can't do nothing,
staring over at my bucket now suddenly
scritching and scratching,
a claw coming over the top, complaining.
Only thing I can do is take
my shovel and bop him - he lets go.
Mrs. McNeil halfway up the hill
turns and waves leaving me on my own.
Smart for his age me figures out a scheme
involving putting the pail
on the next step then using two hands
and the rail to pull myself up.
He don't make it any easier,
scolding and clattering, occasionally
hoisting himself on his giant arms above the rim
until I duel him with
my sword-shovel prodding and poking until he gives way.
65..66..67 and there is Mrs. McNeil grabbing my bucket,
saying what a good job I done, disappearing through