Ellen Doré Watson

In Which the Sea Rakes at My Window and Seemingly Unlike Me
June 22, 2021 Dore Watson Ellen

In Which the Sea Rakes at My Window


and I wake rattled, as if to resist a long fall
from the bluff’s stomach-churning height,
the way water roils the rocks below—or
is it the nearness of Derry—virgin city, its walls
never broached but, hard below them, Bogside
with its Bloody Sunday Museum. Yes, it was
the singe-bloom of thinking my forebears some
there and then.
Every year on St. Patrick’s Day,
my apolitical brother insisted on wearing an orange
tie to school, the only weekday he’d wear a tie at all.
To be a spiteful thorn to who? Granted, we thought
we Protestants were the minority—which we were,
in our Italian/Irish/Jewish suburban town, a tarp
of strip malls and identical boxes planted over toxic
potato farms.
Donegal is green and moist and Catholic
proud, with its castle—blood, horsehair, and sand
binding its stones, stairs right-handed for sword-bearing
on the descent and syncopated to trip invaders on the up.
What do I know of war?
Back when I was losing my virginity and getting high
and tear-gassed, my brother was in danger of failing
math and getting sent to Vietnam. Preacher father made
a phone call: I know my son probably deserves the F—
please give him a D because he doesn’t deserve to die.
How safe we were.
Here now, verdant velvet, loosely
studded with sheep who bow to chomp its green,
or rest, legs folded gently beneath them. Some give
their coats, others their very meat.



Seemingly Unlike Me
The blue glint of mussels below the jetty
The word jetty
That porcelain pitcher beautified by its fine cracks
The neighbor cat daily downsizing the chipmunk population in the stone wall
Bride, groom, and wedding guests all dressed in red & black
The delightfully crisp & delicate click of a physical camera
The sage she gave me I never burned
Lime-green shoots busting through the soil
The wedding ring found by metal detector in the bed of straw around my neighbor’s baby Sun-golds
Mister Rogers
The woman frozen in the crosswalk
Rebecca’s purple lettuce
The dusty garnet hymnal in the dark of my piano bench
All so seemingly unlike me
Though I have wed and I have hungered
I’ve glistened and tried to be kind and I’ve burst through, impatient
Even today, I paused to admire a few of my hard-won cracks

Poet & translator Ellen Doré Watson’s fifth and most recent collection is pray me stay eager, (Alice James Books 2018). Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Tin House, Orion, Gulf Coast, and The New Yorker. She is currently Conkling Visiting Poet at Smith College and serves as poetry and translation editor of The Massachusetts Review.