The Edge

[This year is the 20th anniversary of Cape Cod Light by Michael Hattersley.  The other parts of this series are here.]

Race Point is the end of Cape Cod. Yes, you can keep following it back around, south towards the much calmer Herring Cove and into Cape Cod Bay towards Wood End, but at Race Point the winds and the surf are strong, and you really get the feeling of being at the end of the world, where the land meets the sea. Herring Cove is the edge of the Cape, a long beach you can drive right up to.

Geography of Provincetown. Race Point is in the upper left. Miller Hill is the red marker at upper right, walking distance from downtown. The breakwater runs north-south from the southernmost part of Provincetown to Wood End.

Further back down the cape, is Cape Cod Light (“Highland Light” is its formal name) in the next town down, Truro. On the drive to Provincetown through Truro you pass long rows of white beach houses for rent.

Life is different out on Race Point and Herring Cove, and gives it you a different perspective on life than you have even in Truro or Downtown Provincetown. The fishermen have a different relationship with the sea and the town than the other Provincetown residents; the tourists tend to prefer the beaches downtown; but the “year-rounders” like Michael are stuck somewhere in between. They remain there through the winter for their own reasons, many of them to escape.

I’m pretty sure the fourth poem in Cape Cod Light is about Race Point or Herring Cove (or maybe not—the fishermen he mentions tend to be found at the wharfs downtown). Either way, it’s certainly about the shores of Provincetown, and about those in-betweener year-rounders like Michael who get to define themselves as they like.

Michael on the beach, I would guess Race Point.

[The Edge first appeared as Citizenship in Several Worlds in Poetry Northwest.]

The Edge

At the edge, you can look back over it all
And take things into account. The sea will help you
If you choose your angle right: foldings and foldings,
The hands
Sealing a package never to be opened again.
All the connections that seemed so organic inland
Grow accidental; you can have your way with the sea
Where life is the constant victim, dismissing
The footprints down the track to the beach, except
You grow less certain. They remind you
As the seawater violence in your blood reminds you.
The parade of strangers
Pins you against the curt acknowledgements
From fishermen who have seen your face before,
And between them you float free, capable of anything,
Of producing a new self at cafe tables.
Creatures float by who have lost their reality at the edge.
They have stayed too long
Without any firm connections to the sea.
They should have wives or lovers
In white cottages. But ghosts are the unlived lines.
Our silhouettes are unlived lines
When strangers walk by our windows. Then they look
At watches, or adjust their clothes. We are looking
At lovers who are thinking of strangers.
They are easier to resist
Where the foghorns will sound after dark.

Reverence, a sculpture by Jim Sardonis
Whale Tales, a photo by David Atkinson

The next poem is here.

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