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In the Brine-Spiked Air

Let’s jump into the car, honey, and head straight for the Cape, where the cock on our housetop crows that the weather’s fair, and my garden waits for me to coax it into bloom.

– Stanley Kunitz, from “Route 6”
Artist James Everett Stanley in the FAWC Studio.

Roughly seven-and-a-half months prior to his death on March 14, 2006, renowned poet Stanley Kunitz celebrated his 100th birthday in one of his favorite places on earth: Provincetown. As part of his centennial, he told Michelle Norris on National Public Radio, “I don’t want to talk about my health or longevity or whatnot. I think everybody knows I’m not a youngster, and that’s all right with me.” Then he proceeded to read the following poem, entitled “The Long Boat,” which he said, “alludes to the longboat of the ancient Vikings, on which the body of a fallen hero was pushed out into the open sea for an eternity of drifting.” Clearly aware of his own impending mortality, the former poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner’s lyric seemed to superimpose ancient Norse tradition upon the environs of Race Point as he read:  “When his boat snapped loose from its mooring under the screeching of the gulls, he tried at first to wave to his dear ones onshore. But in the rolling fog, they had already lost their faces. Too tired even to choose between jumping and calling, somehow he felt absolved and free of his burdens, those mottos stamped on his name tag, conscience and vision and all that caring. He was content to lie down with the family ghosts in the slop of his cradle, buffeted by the storm, endlessly drifting. Peace. Peace: to be rocked by the infinite, as if it didn’t matter which way was home, as if he didn’t know he loved the Earth so much…

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