Marblehead Poetry
Selections



Footprints in the Sand
Devereaux Beach, Marblehead

To Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poet of
The Fire of Driftwood
Devereaux Farm, Near Marblehead

Great Poet, you stood here, where I stand now,
With heart and soul steadfast,
Gazing from the shore to a broken bow,
Horizons, and the past.

With thoughts of what was lost you set your eye
Upon the twilight glow,
And stood with painful heart to question why
Some held the oar in hand, but did not row.

When you glanced behind, ahead, then aside
Not warmed by fate or fires,
You walked more surely still with reaching stride
With hope and hearts desires.

And seeing your footprints upon the land,
That wandered with the shore,
Pressed your foot down deeply into the sand,
And hoped for many more.

Did you push further yet, with longer stride
To walk beside me now
Whispering in my breath, and every tide:
Hold steady the oar with the rising bow.

There is no poets doubt to wash away.
As if you were not here? -
The houses, wood, and stories stand today,
Your testament held dear.

Your footprints, my good friend, are with the sand
That travels far away,
But what the sea takes it returns to land
Not once, but many ways.
The boat is small and waves are high today:
The words and wind rush by;
Like wings, we hold the oars to steer the way,
Longfellow, you and I.

--Carol Hardick



Estella Harriet Richardson Chadwick
(1857-1951)

I knew her as Stella
our great grandmother
who in her 80’s wrote letters, hundreds to the veterans
from World War II men without legs men without arms.
She wrote after she no longer shoveled coal
for wash day, nor walked from 24 Pearl Street in Marblehead
every monday morning with two pails to Gerry School
1/8 mile to pump water.
She scrubbed her clothes
with brown soap made from pig fat.
hot water, rinsing water
another two pails
walking 1/8 mile
climbing the stairs
waiting for water to boil
in her copper tub.
Her New England eyes old enough to look inward.
I remember
standing as a child in front of her
her cane hanging on the back
of her rocking chair
I remember obeying a silent voice
“ memorize
your great grandmother’s face.”
I remember staring
into her ocean
eyes
men lost at sea
women widowed
salt of the earth pain
suddenly
the room swimming in light.

by Elizabeth Alberda


The Chadwick Eyebrows

All  five of us have got ‘em!
As a kid I never knew
how the town knew
‘ there goes a Chadwick,” they’d say.
why I’d scowl hearin’ that
tryin’ to took real mean,
I mean sometimes you don’t want
the weight of ten generations
in Marblehead above your eyes,
you want to browse around,
psych books call it identity crisis.
One time I plucked in front of a funny mirror
the kind where everything looks large.
why I was practically eyeless by the time
I finished, but I found out
they grow back again and again and again.
Why I’ve even twirled the edges,
scarin’ myself in dreams
when a judge in a long black robe
flew after me down Washington Street,
on our way home from Story School,
we’d eye the hangin’ tree.
Even in a small New England College
these eyebrows grew wild.
Some friends tried to tame ‘em:
“ we’ve got to civilize you Lizzie,
you can’t run around with all that hair!”
But I’ve grown to love ‘em,
these black arches now turning white, these collectors of salt.
Mother grows them where we’re all close creatures,
just go ask those old timers, the ancient ones
in the Old Burial Hill near Red’s Pond
they know trees grow hair.

by Elizabeth  Alberda



Marblehead

Far out where the seas, with a heave and a swing
On the stern rocky coast, foaming fusillades fling,
These grim rigged rocks shielding many a cove
Where clear limpid currents in calm idly rove,
A town there lies sheltered, surrounding a bay.
O'er hill, dale and woodland, in lovliness spread,
Embraced by the ocean, is Marblehead.

In annals of mankind, her sons for their town,
By valorous deeds won a place of renown.
On land and on sea, on the plain or the deck,
Unflinching they fought and of nothing did reck.
Though fearful of danger and grieve as they may
Her daughters encouraged their men for the fray.
And history's pages whene'er they be read
Will tell of the heroes of Marblehead.

In peace she lies there as in days of the past,
Her glory remains while her spirit shall last.
And she who the power of tyranny dared
Shall long from the hand of the vandal be spared,
Her charm and her honor she never shall lose.
In deep admiration on these I shall muse
Whenever my footsteps may journeying tread --
The beauty and glory of Marblehead.

-- Alexander MacPhedran




Marblehead: Enchanted Forest

Imagine a teenage sailor
Cruising with Dad, down the coast
Never having seen Marblehead,
Yet navigation his boast.

Proud of his skills,
Sure hand on the helm
Nothing could faze him.
The sea, his young realm.

Nearing The Rock,
He glances at the chart.
What are these? Trees?
He looks through the glass with a start.

Not trees, these are masts!
And their numbers are great.
He is speechless with wonder
And glad of his fate.

The boy grows, quiet,
As he slips in the hook.
The sloop swings at anchor
And he takes his first look.

Imprint on the brain,
Thirty years go by fast.
But he still remembers
The first trip, not his last.

His own son on board now
Is proud too, as a kin.
As another young sailor
Feels the Marblehead wind.

It's an Enchanted Forest
That calls from the sea.
It calls sailors now
As it once called me.

-- F. Thomas Crowley, Jr.
Recalling his first sail into Marblehead,
35 years ago Written October 29, 2001




Marblehead

Boats swaying in the harbor deep.
People swimming at Devereux Beach.
Artists painting the ocean blue.
Children laughing the whole day through.
At Crocker Park the kids jump off the big brown dock.
And at the Landing people are standing, watching the big boats go by.
Marblehead is a fun-filled place with lots of things to do.

-- Stephanie Peace




That Day In Marblehead

We all went down to the sea that day
To catch her coming 'round the light,
For the tallest of the tall ships
Was coming to spend the night.

She'd tucked in here at Marblehead
In eighteen and fourteen, they say.
But a well-placed shot from Fort Sewall
Sent the enemy on its way.

She knew if she had to run again,
She'd be safe in Marblehead.
For the stalwarts of Glover's Regiment
Stood fast at their cannon's head.

She was coming here to try her new sails,
Her seaworthiness, and her masts.
Her crew was well-trained and eager to show
They were ready to sail, at last.

The wind was soft on the land that day
And, Oh! The sun was bright!
And the little town of Marblehead
Was prepared for the coming sight.

The streets were thronged with townfolk;
The flags there, all unfurled.
There wasn't a better place to be
In this wide and wondrous world!

Hawkers and "headers" mixed on the streets.
It's not known who smiled the most,
Those come to make money the old-fashioned way
Or those lucky enough to play host.

The fortunate folks who live on the shore
Shared their views with us, too, and the thrill
Of seeing our beauty come home again
To our harbor, our shores, and our hills.

The shops of Old Town were crammed to the doors
With all manner of "Ironsides" gear
To tempt the thousands of passersby
Who came from far and near.

They came, it's said, from across the state
And beyond, to the shining sea
To share the treasure their pennies had bought;
To be part of her history.

There were not only tourists and history buffs.
The most trusted man in the nation was there,
And the mayor of Boston, himself, was aboard
And dignitaries to spare.

And some who had the room to spare
Would put crew members up for the night.
They had trained so long and so hard, we knew
And deserved to be greeted right.

And they saw, with us, the growing swell,
The chests puffed out, the eyes aglow;
Though no more so the folks on the widows' walks
Than those on the streets below.

Well, the crowd was pressing against the rails
Of the walkway around old Fort Sewall,
And the braver and younger crawled out on the rocks
To get a good glimpse of the jewel.

As six-deep we stood at the rail that day
We counted the boats that stood by
The harbor was foaming with thousands of craft
When the opposite shore caught our eye.

Across the harbor, we saw ourselves,
Lighttower point was jammed to the shore;
Two arms of the harbor to welcome her home,
And to hug her, ten thousand more!

"There she is!" The call went up!
And we heard the cannon's roar!
The salute from the battery quickened the pulse
And caused the heart to soar!

"Huzzah!" we cried. "Huzzah!" once more
We stood on our tiptoes to see.
And craned our necks for just one little look
At the ship that made history.

There were some had no room, and some too short
To get a good, clear view,
But the folks up in front made way for the back
And passed their binoculars, too.

Commander Beck would later say,
"It filled my heart with pride.
To see you people, there, on the shore;
As you came into view, we cried.

The red, white, and blue on the shore was a sight
That will live in our hearts for years."
As much as we thrilled at the sight that we saw,
It was the people who brought them to tears.

She could have been scuttled way back, you know
They would sell her without any fuss,
But a clever young student named Oliver Holmes
Wrote a poem that saved her for us.

And no one tore her ensign down.
Nor sent her to sink beneath the wave.
For schoolchildren sent their pennies for her
To be saved from a early grave.

The world is weary, and sick, some say
And not worth the effort to brave it.
But while we have children like you to grow up,
We'll have the adults to save it.

There's always good news in the world if you try
To find a good cause for your penny.
Make a pocket of pride and goodfellowship
In this world going wrong for so many.

For the product of pride, as you already know,
Is the good feeling that stays with us still.
It replaces those bad, deep-down feelings
Of selfishness, hate, and ill will.

Old Ironsides brought us no bad news,
She brought pride to our hearts instead;
The time she came to strut her stuff
That day in Marblehead.

-- E. T. Verbaas-Doucet




A Limerick

Marblehead is a town by the sea,
It has a head and a neck but no knee.
It has hundreds of boats,
And a whole mess of floats,
And all of my friends and me.

-- Anne Smidt (age 12)




"When Old Darling kept the lighthouse,"
As the old folks used to say,
He established a good custom --
Quite forgotten in our day.

It was when the town's chief business
Was cod fishing on the Banks;
Then our boys to prove their mettle
Early joined the fishing ranks.

In the fall, on their returning,
Darling (man-o'-war, he),
Flung Old Glory to the breezes
When the last boat came from sea.

--Came the time for their home-comming,
Day succeeded passing day
Marked by loved ones, anxious, watching,
At Fort Sewall o'er the bay.

All but one had safely anchored
In the harbor of renown,
And a mood of fear and sorrow
Settled on the good old town.

As the bleak winds of November,
Sweeping down the rugged coast
Brought no glimpse of the Decatur
To the weary, anxious host.

Then one morning in December,
Looking toward the "eastern glim"
Lo! a sail was scan approaching
Near the islands bare and grim.

Sailing grandly with a fair wind,
Baker's passed and Eagle Isle;
With her "salt wett" and crew hearty
After many a long sea-mile

Then as all eyes seek the lighthouse
For the signal of the years;
There's the hero of "Old Ironsides" --
Once again the flag appears!

Flying gayly from the masthead
As the sign that all may tell,
That the last boat of Bank fleet
Has returned and all is well.
-- Reverend Marcia M. Selman

-- From the December 14, 1850.
Marblehead Advocate & Mercury


The keeper, "Darling," in the poem is Captain Darling, who was one of the Marbleheaders on board USS Constitution in 1814 as the ship sought shelter in Marblehead Harbor.



I am all alone,
sitting on top of my cove,
as I call it,
Listening to gulls screeching
while dropping their mussels
on the rocks below.
Puffy clouds above,
drifting slowly throughout
the pale blue sky,
Ruffled water surrounding me,
and the smell of dead fish
filling the air.
Fishermen pulling up traps
full of lobsters
the size of my shins.
And no one here to bother me,
at the top of my cove,
as I call it.

-- Dane Risch



Fair Drifts Foul

The little league field on West Shore Drive sinks in places
like an old pasture, the grass hiding imprints
of boulders and tree stumps hauled off into the rough.

Today's game has lasted. It's Thirteen - nothing. A wispy boy
in the outfield makes monkey faces, talks gibberish
to himself, jumps and spins for no baseball-related reason.

His coach calls time, squats beside the catcher, yanks at an
unruly shinguard. The baseball state-of-mind stops and yawns
at all the missed catches, foul tips, and renegade gear.

Northeast of here, a vortex, spinning, pushes a bank of rain
toward the field, announced by a misty odor of drying rockweed,
and bleached, abandoned shells, picked nearly clean.

The pitcher plops down on the mound, his legs straight out,
toes pointing toward home plate, then the first baseman hunches
down and tips over on his side, eyeing the coach.

The shortstop flops, flat on his back, legs splayed out
and fanning like he's making angels in the snow, and the outfield
collapses as a unit, rolling and kicking like calves in spring.

The baseball-state-of-mind drifts and strays, while the coach
keeps tugging at the shinguard, wound now around the catcher's
feet. The players have all lain down; you know it's going to
rain.

-- Michele Leavitt




Remembrance of Old Marblehead

I stand on the rocks and listen to the ancient whispers of the sea,
They sing the songs of fishermen, of canno fire, of boats rich with merchandise.
I lie on the banks of Fort Sewall.
Suddenly, the benches transform into cannons.
Trees become young soldiers.
Townspeople cheer as the proud bow of Constitution steers into harbor.
At night men gather around a blazing fire.
Their triumphant songs rise to meet the surge of ocean waves.
When I walk on the old roads, I hear the drumming of Glover's Regiment marching over faded cobblestones.
On the steps of the Town House the crier is ringing his bell.
It calls out in the salty air like a foghorn leading sailors home.
When I walk by the historic houses, I see the spirits of Marblehead.
A woman stands on a widow's walk
Her white dress flaps around her like the wings of wild seagulls.
She is waiting for her husband to return.
She is waiting to see the tall mast emerge from the fog.
She is waiting.
The aged bricks and wooden clapboards of these houses are filled with voices.
And the song of these voices is remember.

-- Katherine Fowley

NOTE: This poem was read to a packed house at Abbot Hall during Marblehead's official celebration of its 350 Anniversity of Incorporation. The audience lept to its feet as the author concluded her reading to thunderous and prolonged applause.



Tales of Home

Far beneath the beauty you display,
In a place far away,
Which perhaps I'll give to you,
When my soul is clear and blue,
The riches of this pirates plunder,
Your dreams cast asunder,
Come and lead us far astray,
Where we're "Headin" anyway.

To the "Banks" which soulessly beckon,
A bawdy band from Marblehead reckon,
Listing homeward, formost ghost,
Though' tis gettin' late, me host.

-- Kathleen Frances Dearing


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