Carol Lee Vail Prize 1st Place 2021

Machias Sea Island

      by Judith Janoo

     One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—
waiting for a gift from the sea.
             —Anne Morrow Lindbergh

In the quiet of shared borderland,
in the solitary air, the fog lifting off

the Maine coast and Canada’s Bay,
in the lighthouse, the keeper

keeps sculpting darkness
in the silence that is the island,

the borderland’s weathered rock
and scrubgrass, old Passamaquoddy

fishing grounds so remote,
neither country claimed ownership,

sharing the sculptor of darkness,
wind-riven grasses and eroding rock,

the flagman for fishing boats
the petrels, razorbills and prim puffins

emerging from rock crevices, awkward,
stocky, but dressed to a T, safety-orange

bills stuffed with supper: herring,
briny strands of bladderwrack,

waving surrender where no treaties
sculpt the joined silence, no claim

widens abstract differences, where sea
and shore peacefully share a border,

and the keeper shines a light
on conduct in deep water.


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