Bailey Island


Cribstone Bridge 

-- after Engineer -- L.N. Edwards

that links Orr's and Bailey Islands, a work 
of art in its own right -- 10,000 tons 
of granite blocks piled in an open lattice frame -- 
gravity stabilized -- no fasteners needed -- 

1150 feet of granite cribwork that withstands 
salt water exposure, the tide of Will's Gut 
sweeping in and out, 
finished in 1928 -- named
a "National Historic Engineering Landmark" 
in 1984 -- one of a kind since it's only relative 
in Scotland was taken out by Nazi bombs in WWII -- 

yes, definitely, a work of art connecting 
one island with another while the salt tides -- 
millions of drops of sweat and tears --

are flowing, always flowing to and fro, 
in and out, flowing back and forth 
through all those open pores.

Low Tide, Sitting

on the top of the ledges of the gut -- 
Will's gut itself, beside a stream of water 
not more than 10 yards wide -- marked
by poles with triangles on top -- red 
on the Orr's Island side -- green 
on Bailey --
                   hmmm -- look at that now, 
a boat is coming through the small rectangle 
opening in the granite latticework 
in the center of Cribstone Bridge -- 

a boat carrying a family of five -- the father
steers through the narrow channel between
red and green, stop and go -- the mother 
adjusts the life jackets of the two youngest -- 
the boy in the rear smiles, waves to me --

I smile back -- my new dentures gleam
in morning sunlight -- "Go for It" 
I mouth to him -- a silent shout 

from the ledges of the gut, 
the first day of my 65th year.

Feet Muddy

from wading through clam shells, mud 
and leaked sewerage that had seemed 
an inviting stretch of blue gray 
carpet -- that looked solid enough
from the lawn chair in front of the motel, 

but my feet didn't crunch shells, just 
squished them into oozing black mud 
and felt the suction whoooosh! schlup!
with every step I took -- my new blue 
sneakers covered, my legs splattered 
up to my knees and beyond,
                                            yet, sitting here 
on the gut's ledges -- I won't complain 
when before me lies an archipelago 
of island fingers -- bare white knuckles 
of rock rising above the lines 
of wrack and weed, rising mysteriously 
in the haze and mist, 
                                rising out 
of the cream gray ripples of Casco bay -- 
under the cream gray clouds with a blush 
of rose from the bashful sun --- mmmmm -- 

delicious -- the sandwich of knuckle 
that refuses to fold into a fist.

On the Ledges of Will's Gut

on those distinctive petrified wood
Maine rocks -- peering into gray 
gruel fog -- one can barely make out 

the dark curved beckoning, admonishing 
island fingers -- the vague snouts 
of creatures -- undefined, hinted at -- 

all mystery, we can only guess how 
many eons it takes to create a ledge 
of rock -- a human being -- a direct line 

of poetry -- how many eons to create
all things -- all we can see from here 
with these eyes -- this narrow patch

of ripples, laid out with beads -- late 
man's addition, the only color, the only 
straight lines in the wavy scene -- 

cream white pearl and orange donut 
buoys strung on some submerged rope -- 
a boundary (Will's seven times great 

grandson explains) of a lobster field.

On Cribstone Bridge

in thick fog -- an eerie effect, like being 
in a plane and looking out a side window 
through mist and cloud at the world 

far below -- dark twin stiff bodies of land 
one male, one female with draining tide pool 
hearts laid out in a fog shroud

look there -- on one, the male -- see
the twin gull skyscrapers fly away 
from the rock skull of their own accord 

look down on the dark, thin peninsulas
stretching into the gray sea -- see malignant 
fingers of glioblastoma stretching into 

the healthy gray cells of my brother's 
brain -- inhale the fog, the dampness,
the aroma of death in the wind.

Grey Sail

in the distance -- shrouded creature
trailing his dark cape, steering
the silent craft, as always, death

has someplace to go -- couldn't,
wouldn't stop for me -- just gliding
calmly on into the gathering storm 

clouds fused with summer smaze 
behind the dead man's float island 
dotted with white birds;

while here, now, in the sudden 
summer squall, we watch the cool, 
refreshing rain spatter on, then 

rise in steam from the pavement.

Giant Staircase

Well, here we are again, sitting
on the dry stairs, donated in 1910 
to the town of Bailey Island by Captain 
Wm Sinnet and his wife Joanna -- a great gift 
(whether or not it was theirs to give) 
so much to so many -- and free (sort of) -- 

all one has to do is know the roads, 
the winding path through private property 
to get here, to these giant steps leading 
down into froth and foam of churning surf . . .

Yes, here we are looking down
through rough hewn narrow canyon 
walls on both sides at these giant
stairs of uneven stone --
                                      morning fog 
still not lifted -- no panoramic scene 
today, -- must focus on the here, 
the now that is given to us -- 

just wave after wave -- a four footer, 
another, then a six -- a major surge up 
and over the darker, more slippery 
stairs below . . . 
                          in the spirit of 
William and Joanna, I hereby bequeath these 
rough hewn lines -- these stanza stairs 
that the sparkling surf (at somewhat 
irregular intervals) may climb as high 
or descend as deep as it dares -- 

to you, dear reader, feel free 
to climb or descend with me 
any time of the day or night.

64th Birthday

on the Giant's stairway
on Bailey Island, with you,
as always the best time with you
and water -- 
                    now, at low tide
the surf at the foot of the stairs 
seems so far away -- the off white
cream and butter froth and foam
floats on the lime green sea

while we savor small pieces of fudge,
the swirls of chocolate and vanilla
from the gift shop at Land's End,

the swirls of froth and sea, 
of going down in the light, 
and coming up in the dark,

the swirls of last evening 
in this aftermath present, deep, 

sweet currents swirling through 
each and every one of our cells.

Later, We Find

a place in the shade of a rock,
shade enough only for one -- even

though it's my birthday, I give it
to you, lay a towel over your knees

you lean back against the ledge
of petrified wood turned rock

and watch the shining surf spray
the kelp, barnacles, and stone --

feel finger strokes keeping time 
with the surges of surf -- hear

my whisper: "Happy birthday to us" -- 
one combined being in tune 

with the swells of the sea.

Seagull Flying

over a calm protected body of salt water, 
a small pool between this harbored shore 
and the ledges of the gut -- 
                                         the mirror image -- 
the gull in the water, diving and rising 
as if attached to the real gull above 

by puppet strings -- a playful swimmer
rising and descending in a patch 
of pink tinted sea til it disappears 
in the shadow of petrified rock.

The real gull flies eastward -- 
appears as a dark speck against 
pale tinted clouds. 

Oh seagull flying, turn! 
Turn, turn from your shadow world! 
Look squarely into the setting sun.

Souvenir Feather

I am meditating on the hard
quill spine and soft fluffy edges
of this souvenir feather
that I picked up, here 

on the petrified rock ledges
of the gut -- when suddenly 
it flutters in the wind-- flies
out of my hands as if it were

the gull it was once a part of --
when I reach to secure it,
the movement, my first movement
in a long time, startles

the whole flock of gulls that 
had been sharing the magic spot; 
they explode into flight -- 
I lose track of the feather, 

my thought, a part of myself 
has drifted away, -- something 
very important I wanted to say 
is lost in the sudden thunder 

of their wings -- the rippling 
echoes that crinkle and are gone.

Plastic Gallon 

water bottle -- opaque white 
buoy -- drifting, drifting -- 

closer then further and further 
away from whoever, whatever it is 

that is me, these adhering, near-
sighted cells that peer through 

astigmatic lenses at an empty 
bottle drifting away into sunflecked 

Casco bay, drifting with detached strands 
of dead yet glowing golden grasses 

and translucent gene pools of mint 
green jelly containing seeds

of some sort. 

High Tide at Land's End

at the tip of Bailey Island, we are engaged 
in people watching -- juices are flowing: 

a middle aged blonde woman with sunglasses 
is sketching a pastel scene in water colors --
on her pad we see the sunset tinted haze, 
the pale blue sky, the slight swells of wave, 
and a female head in profile cloud; 

an older man is pointing his camera 
at some small rock islands -- snapping 
and resnapping his shutter;

a young man with bare hairy chest
and shaggy unleashed dog is standing
on the rock ledges talking so loud,
so excitedly into his cell phone;

a grey haired woman with sunburned face, 
purple baseball cap and wire glasses 
warily eyes the dog, then continues writing 
long involved paragraphs in her notebook.


A motor boat guns its way through
the channel between the islands and us,
sends waves that splash cold water 
on my bare legs. I look up,
a brief wary glance, then continue 
jotting down these notes.


the mops of hair that had been lying flat
on the rock heads are swirling back 
and forth, flailing around, even standing 
on end as the highest waves come and go --

white gulls and black cormorants 
are sharing together the sunbaked tips 
of those small barren rock islands --

while above the tinted haze, 
the woman's head (that could be yours -- 
or any of your sisters) in pushed 
ever so slowly backwards 
across the sky.





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copyright, James R. Scrimgeour. All Rights Reserved
email: ScrimgeourJ@wcsu.edu / scrimgeo@sbcglobal.net