Crossing the Chesapeake In Winter

From this bridge that arcs
like the spine of a lover’s back,
the broad bay seems a black and white
aerial photo of farmland, silver-tipped,
the fences and walls exchanged
for the zig-zag gaps in the heaving ice,
the fields in rhomboid and trapezoid
sheets that subdue the struggling waves.
Oh what a weight this winter has placed
on this frail and fecund sea.

To see it like this,
the bay in its glacial mask,
makes one image the world of mussel and crab
as a place of secret secretions:
crystal, claw, and shell. –And ice
as the skeletal house of salt and blood.

Your tires follow the vanishing arch
raised by fog-kissed buttresses
against which ice-fields nuzzle and split,
and deep in your fingers’ flesh
the steering wheel winces
as the bridge cushions the ice
that is traveling somewhere too.

As you reach mid-bay
the channels of open water widen;
scattering ice-slabs mirror
the bleachy clouds on a darkening sky.
Below, a lone gull captains his raft of ice
beyond, the horns of distant ships
blast out their names on the frosted air.


from Near the Fire, © 1983 Philip K. Jason, originally published in Chesapeake Country Life

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