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  • NYS Writers Institute

Poetry Friday: "Quahogs" by Frank X. Gaspar

If you enjoy today's poem, you're in luck: Frank X. Gaspar will give a reading in Averill Park next week.


By Frank X. Gaspar

It was for the wind as much as anything.

It was for the tidal flats, for the miles of bars

and the freezing runs between them,

blued and darkened in the withering gusts.

For the buckets, for the long-tined rakes.

For our skin burning and the bones

beneath, all their ache. For the bent backs,

for the huddle toward warmth beneath

our incapable layers, how we beat

ourselves with our arms. The breath

we blew, the narrow steam that spun away.

How we searched their tell-draggle marks.

Then the feel of them as we furrowed. Then it

was surgery and force together. Like stones.

Opal or pearl or plain rock, ugly except

they were beautiful, their whorls and

purple stains. The bucket’s wire cutting

with their weight. For the sky blazing, its

sinking orange fire. For the sky’s black streaks

with night rising, winter-sudden. Back,

shoreward, home, the tide creeping like a wolf.

For the little stove warming, its own orange fire.

The old pot, the steam, the air in savor,

the close room, the precious butter, the

blue fingers throbbing, our bodies in all

the customs of weariness, the supper,

succulent of the freezing dark sea come up,

and hunger, its own happiness, its own

domain immeasurable. It was for the hunger.

Published in the print edition of The New Yorker January 11, 2016,

Frank X. Gaspar is the author of five poetry collections and two novels. His most recent book is the collection “Late Rapturous.”


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