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Booker's Point

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Bernard A. Booker, wry old Maine codger and unofficial mayor of Ell Pond, is the subject of Booker's Point, an oral history-inspired portrait-in-verse. Weaving storytelling, natural history, and the poetry of place, the collection evokes the sensibility of rural New England and the pleasures of a good story. "Grumbling is subtle, conjures the natural world richly and convincingly, and her subject matter is surprising and intriguing. I also admire how she handles meter."ÑMorri Creech, judge and author of Sleep of Reason

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Part I.

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I.

Some Kind of Hunter

He coaxed a pregnant woman right across the river, and it weren’t no easy bridge.

A cousin of an in-law, broke as dirt, she come up visiting from Vermont too poor to buy a license. Booker paid it, set a rifle in her hands, and took her up to Perkinstown, the brook side, where they come upon this bridge, just beams and cables, rough.

Full six months big, a borrowed gun; to her, that span, it looked like one hell of a stunt when Booker brought her up to it, said, Look, you’ve gotta cross that river on them wires.

Now, Booker’s gone these routes, matters of course, for quite a while, and spares no care or feat— hauls moose out of the woods in split canoes, checks hoofprints in the gravel pit’s pale sand most every morning, seeing where they cross.

A deer makes no more noise than shadow does, he told his novice kin, and knows the sound by going over into silence, deep, and back, more than a couple times. So when he led this woman, large with child, up to the bridge, and she replied, Oh no—I can’t do that, he tried to make her see the other side.

 

Part II.

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II.

Stuff

You come to call on Booker, ring his bell:

Draw back the hammer hanging there and bang square, hear—the secondary crusher jaw he scavenged of the quarry’s graveyard scrap.

An iron lock once thrust down through the top and oscillated, moved just half an inch to crush the rocks that fell down in between.

But makes a good bell, too. As loud as hell.

He lets me in on matter here at Ell

Pond’s pell-mell thing museum, naming the source, the use, the quirk: The etching of a fox, its mouth rue-full of tail-feathers, he snatched from Morrow’s farm; the axe poised pine-beam high once cracked ice blocks; and frozen in this jug’s pale blue, old air’s still there. He taps the glass:

A ring comes, short but clear, safe in the well.

This monster crock he bought unseen, he tells me, holds just tinder now, not scalding pigs, but in the turning over, use to use, something is struck, an echo, sundry deals, the four of everything he’s got in here.

 

Part III.

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III.

By Piece

A haystack find—he’d once dug, heaved through straw for something old to yank out; now, he ascends ladder and eaves to show me how these four warped planks of pine, inked with thin sepia scraps of script, once held. And though time’s split syntax and grain, we’ll fit it back together, moved to salvage writ from splinter, riddling in time lapse, trial and error as we mistake how seams link characters. Align all knowns: That haystack was the place where Trafton Hatch once manned the High

Pine Railroad. Roadmaster, his sign once said. And will again, once piece by piece of Hatch’s slats, we’ve hitched up letters, traces of a seal, crate strapping—maybe held a pig once, something else even before

Hatch brushed it off, penned claim. Hmm—switch that ton and Hatch, d Mas and Roa and Ahh—the words, refrained, sunlit.

Soon we’ll return them to the dark hold of the pole barn, but the glow is something, as we keep time, mark it. Proud as Hatch inking his own name on a pigless slat, we’ve solved this one. Warm minutes now, it’s whole.

 

Part IV.

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IV.

Rigging

The pumpkin plot, autumn

Now, that thing’s gonna fall six inches, fast, he warns. I peer heavenward, nod. So don’t get nervous. Twenty feet above us, lashed with cables, yellow nylon slings, steel cords, a hundred-fifty pounds of harvest, one big gourd. Just having grown the thing is trick enough, and now he’s raised it, acumen and apex, such a grace—this scheme he’s rigged up harnesses a physics I can scarce grasp, let alone take down. Ready? It’s moved from rest to midair, cleared the mesh wire fence, and slowly lands, eases to bed. This fruit is more than most might reasonably hope to hoist. I’d do heights, if I knew these ropes.

57

Age of Iron

Inside his scavenged railroad tanks, things keep against the rust, so all old iron tends to end up here. Inside one concrete tank are fifteen kinds of hammers, farmsteads’ worth of work. He dreams back to their day: As time dulled heads, the old people would heat them up to redden and rework each weary edge, though bang too hard, or soon, they’d break the form.

 

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