Last summer, waiting in the car on Stacy Boulevard, I watched an art festival along the sidewalk, a cruise ship in the outer harbor, the passing crowds. I answered the phone three times, logged on to Face Book. And I had an urge that strikes about once a year: to escape crowds, tourists, phones, and become a tourist, a stranger, somewhere else. To go, in other words, “Over the bridge.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love Gloucester and have for 45 years. I look forward to the next 45. I could never leave for heat in the winter or woodsy cool in the summer. I will die here – in 2063. But in the car that day, waiting at the Cut, thoughts wandered. And they turned, naturally, to Ft. Kent, Maine. I’m sure you’ve found yourself sitting in the same place thinking of Ft. Kent. Who wouldn’t? So, here’s the crime: a poem of praise for nondescript Ft. Kent, Maine, written from the center of the universe, Gloucester, Massachusetts. It’s called “The Temper of Presence, Ft. Kent.”
“Blogged up and You Tubed,
Facebooked, crowded out, lost,
You turn, of course, to Ft. Kent
Because no one knows where the hell’s
Ft. Kent, anyway? Even Mainers,
And if they do, don’t care, never visit.
From Gloucester, eight mortal hours,
Same as south to D.C.,
But opposite sprawl, metro traffic,
Noise and people thinning before Portland.
At a log cabin tourist booth
You lock phones in the trunk of the car,
Unfold a map, light a cigar.
Beyond Augusta, signs for kindling, bait,
Wooden wishing wells and lookouts,
The Birthplace of Ed Muskie, mulch…
At a blueberry stand you buy blueberries.
Beyond Bangor, along the Penobscot, pine
Horizons and town after isolated town
The sole center of this or that -
Moose safaris! Arrowheads! Canoes!
In Aroostook County, at Houlton, you leave
The highway and head for Mars Hill,
Homing in on Presque Isle, Caribou…
And Ft. Kent, which is crucial, too:
The blockhouse, fishing derbies, ploye,
And, ending or begun, Route 1.
There’s ample parking. You park.
And above the St. John, break out
The blueberries, listen to that peaceable
Stream fed by the St. Francis, the Allagash,
Here and now, time, trending again.”
John Ronan is a former poet laureate for the city of Gloucester and host of “The Writer’s Block” on Cape Ann TV.
Students! Families! Grandparents, aunts and uncles! The annual Poetry Without Paper contest, sponsored by the Sawyer Free Library, will again open from March 1 to April 30. All students living in or attending school in Gloucester are eligible, from elementary to high school. This is the 16th year of the contest and hundreds of students participate each season, winners claiming prizes, a public reading, and a chance to be on TV. Spread the word! Watch for details at: www.sawyerfreelibrary.org.