Billowing winds on St. Mary's Bay
can't budge the blue herons,
solitary sentinels eyeballing minnows
that skitter along in a falling tide.
Terns tiptoe around clusters of razor clams.
A flight of piping plovers erupts in flight,
screeching snow-white seagulls chase the fleet
as it heads for port under a milky blue sky,
bloated with mackerel, herring, pollack and cod.
They don't make them like Jim anymore.
Sea and salt were in his bones.
With Sinewy arms and the patience of a monk
that never tired of hauling traps, anchors and nets,
he could read the wind like a fortune teller
or pick up the scent of an incoming storm.
Hard as a manyard plate, sturdy as a red oak mizzen mast,
descended from William of orange,from the old country
where the famine caused them all to flee.
Mother gave out after her ninth babe,
and he was sent up to Yellowknife in sub-zero temps,
earned a dollar a day so the rosy cheeked children
would have milk on their breath.
With hunger, patriotism and the threat of war,
he signed up with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders,
soon blood-drenched seaweed and body parts
swept him on to the Normandy beach.
Ambushed by a Panzer division,
locked in a camp 'til the end of the war,
carried out on a stretcher more dead than alive.
Bagpipes were playing when he came home.
Never to forget his comrades in arms,
went to their reunion every year,
built his own house with a pick and a shovel,
raised a proud brood of his own.
As old age and angina slowed him down
he rested in his "building"
made out of scrounged pylons from abandoned piers,
sat on a truck seat, rescued from his treasured dump
replaced now by the recycling scheme.
"How goes the battle?" his unvarying greeting
as he harangued about the "lying sons of whores,
" the politicos of the day.
Now that he is laid to rest
he won't be catching fish anymore.
His spirit rides the tides of the bay
the battle finally won.
Milton P. Ehrlich