Narragansett Evening Walk to Base Library

Two young men greeted a new crew member on a ship’s quarterdeck 60 years ago and, in a matter of weeks, by simple challenge, introduced this then 18 year-old who’d never really read a book through to the lives that can be found in them.—Thank you Anthony Gaeta and Edmund Budde for your life-altering input.

Bay to my right (my rite of sea and asphalt:
I hold to shoulder, I sail, I walk the line)
the bay moved as I moved but in retrograde
as if the way I moved had something to do
with the way the black bay moved
(as if in animation) backward, how it tracked,
how it perfectly matched my pace, but
in direction opposed (Albert would have
a formula or two to spin about this
if he were here) behind, over shoulder,
grey steel ship at pier transfigured
in cloud of cool white light— a spray
from lamps on tall poles ashore, and aboard
from lamps on mast and yards among needles of antennae
which gleamed above its raked stack—
electric cloud, a photon aura edges
feathered into night, enveloped it as it lay
upon the shimmering skin of bay

from here, she’s as still as the thought from which she came:
upheld steel on water arrayed in light, heavy as weight,
sheer as a bubble, the line of pier behind
etched clean as if cut by horizon’s knife

ahead, a library
behind, a ship at night

the bay to my right (as I said) slid dark
at the confluence of all nights
the lights of low barracks and high offices
of the base ahead aimed west, skipped off bay
each of its trillion tribulations jittering at lightspeed
fractured by bay’s breeze-moiled black surface
in splintered sight

ahead the books I aimed to read,
books I’d come to love since Tony & Ed
in the generosity of their own fresh enlightenment
had teamed to bring bright tools to this greenhorn’s
stymied brain to spring its self-locked latch
to let some fresh air in crisp as this breeze
that blows across a bay from where to everywhere
troubling Narragansett from then
to me here now

Jim Culleny