Fog in Naskeag Harbor

by Andrew Motion


When we had done our business with the lobster-man
choosing our dinner from dozens of creatures packed
in a fiberglass tank in his garage, their pincers pinched
in plastic bands but all visibly sensible and frustrated,
trampling each other in a muffled underwater passion,
antennae desperate for a signal, mud-smudges and jet
and startling crimson undercoats the color of pure fury
curdling into fury proper when they were hoisted out
through suffocating air, bodies in spasm, legs spindling—
when we had done our business with the lobster-man
he cast a quiet glance at the calm eggshell evening sky
and said with the authority of God there would be fog
so thick by morning we would not be able to make out
our hands were we to raise them in front of our faces.


Despite or because of this voice being the voice of God
come dawn the next day we saw our own hands alright
but from the bedroom window overlooking the harbor
nothing except a few raindrop-seeds stuck to the glass
although we had never heard rain fall, and beyond them
a fog so thick there was no telling except by good sense
whether the heavens had collapsed or we were lifted up
to live in a world without form except as I insist the form
of hands in front of our faces, and no way either to know
whether we were still anchored and held fast to our point
of granite overlooking the bracken-slope and shoreline,
or already far out to sea and drifting as the current chose
in which case we might strike at any moment on the rocks
of Smuttynose or Mahoney or Deer Isle and be drowned.


Then by 8 o’clock another miracle, which on reflection
had also been predicted, as the fog quietly became mist
and faded, leaving its mother-of-pearl distilled in swathes
of crushed shell that pass for sand this far north in Maine,
exposing the bracken with its Mowgli fronds bent double
under their load of dew, and the bulbous fir tree festooned
with votive oars and life-jackets, and wigs of brassy weed
which had slithered down to hide the expressions on rocks,
and the long harbor where one small island after another
shone briefly behind gauze then floated through as itself,
and the muscly fishing-boats where at last the lobster-men,
one of them our lobster-man, arrived with the first real sun,
climbed aboard, then turned their engines and their music on
before heading out to sea with cloud still the only horizon.