pages Fogisle

by Karen Dowell

Published in Issue No. 13 ~ June, 1998

The walls of this fog-bound mansion are wet, dripping moss encrusted with dew. There is too much furniture, too many occasional tables — as though some obsessed interior decorator glanced around these uneven, multi-cornered cliffs and pronounced: “Spruce. Everything spruce!” Then commanded her staff to create this chaos of small and tall evergreens choking for nutrients and solar attention.

Trees crowd you, jealous of the narrow strip of hallway you hug, taunting the iris and Solomon’s seal that squat at your feet. The carpet is littered with roots and stumps, eager to toss unwary, unwelcome strangers out of the forest fringes onto bald ledges sliding into boiling seas.

Water music, piped in from the ocean arm that encircles this house, washes over you, erasing thoughts like static noise. Fog horns, thick velvet ropes of sound, steer you away from unsafe balconies, slippery with scree. The air is thick with the smell of sap and salted earth. Our last conversation haunts you like a tense jazz solo.

Beyond the spruce halls, a washroom expands and contracts with rushing tides. Fishermen clean their scalloped catch by moonlight in this private place. Bleached shells, soap dishes filigreed with amber veins, pile against rocks. Fidgeting housekeeper waves rearrange as they clean, tucking sand corners under the rounded disks — much like my words scoured and folded your pride. Fog flirts with the water, petting seal pups that watch you climb winding stairs to rooms held high over fjordal fingers.

East Quoddy light stands at the tip of Campobello, white, naked, a single red cross at her neck. She slips in and out of haze negligees, teasing. Distracted, you trip and break an antique wooden vase that shatters under your weight. Shards stab your palms. Your snapping fall alarms an eagle daydreaming in her canopy bed. She arises with a yawn of wings and glides off, without looking back. I could be her.

You brush trigs and dirt off your legs, then brush through scented branch curtains into the sprawling back rooms, where the Atlantic stores winter trash, stolen treasures, and forgotten mementos. The marsh is bickering with the beach over where to stock extra sand, battered crates, frayed rope, disintegrating foam, misplaced weir poles. Rock weed weaves macram‚ patterns around driftwood. Surf-licked sand regurgitates arrow heads from another lifetime. And the wind sings folk songs that chill your ear drums. You want to hear my voice.

You keep walking to avoid the cold, escape the crowded frenzy of gurgling activity. Into the saltwater marsh atrium, where you navigate among tufts of tall grasses and cranberry sponge, islands in the sulfurous muck that sucks your shoes. Until you arrive at the guest wing’s sheltered cove, decorated in black and brick volcanic rock striped with pink granite ledges, laced with pebbled sand.

You sit on one of the smooth rock recliners and wait for blue sky.

And that’s where I find you.

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Karen Dowell lives in Maine and runs TwoDogPress, an independent press specializing in dog books. Her work has appeared in several journals, including Potato Eyes, Recursive Angel, Eclectica, and Serious Poems.