Out at Lanesville

By David Ferry b. 1924 David Ferry

In memoriam Mary Ann, 1932–1980

The five or six of them, sitting on the rocks
Out at Lanesville, near Gloucester; it is like
Listening to music. Several of them are teachers,
One is a psychologist, one is reading a book,
The page glares white in the summer sunlight;
Others are just sunning themselves, or just
Sitting there looking out over the water;
A couple of them seem to be talking together;
From this far off you can’t hear what they are saying.

The day is hot, the absolute middle of summer.
Someone has written an obscenity
In huge letters on the rocks above and behind
This group of people, and someone else, one of them,
Maybe, or maybe a neighbor, the owner of one
Of the cottages up behind and back in the woods,
Has tried to erase it and only partly done so,
So that for years it will say hoarsely fuck
To the random winds and to the senseless waves.

One of them is sitting with her back turned
To me and to the others on the rocks. The purple
Loosestrife and the tigerlilies are like the flags
Of some celebration; they bloom along the edge
Of a small stream that makes its way unseen
Down to the rocks and sand. Her shoulders are round,
And rather luxuriously heavy, and the whole figure
Has a youthful and graceful amplitude of being
Whose beauty will last her her whole life long.

The voices of some people out in a boat somewhere
Are carried in over the water with surprising
Force and clarity, though saying I don’t know what:
Happiness; unhappiness; something about the conditions
Of all such things; work done, not done; the saving
Of the self in the intense work of its singleness,
Learning to live with it. Their lives have separate ends.
Suddenly she turned her head and seems to look
Toward me and toward the others on the rocks,

So that her body, turned away, is more expressive
Than her blank face, a pure reflector of light.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2011
 David  Ferry


David Ferry is an acclaimed American poet and translator. Ferry’s translations, which include some of the world's major works of poetry including The Odes of Horace, and both The Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil, are known for their fluency and grace. In addition to his lauded translations, Ferry is also a prize-winning poet in his own right. His poetic works include Dwelling Places (1993) and Of No Country I Know: New and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, The Body, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Epigraph

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