Poem: “On Twilit Waters”

by E. E. Lewis


The surface calm, the wind quite still.

our canoe glides smooth at paddles’ will.

As we peer through water deep but clear,

rocks and ridges’ forms appear.


Rings of ripples outward spread

from where a gull dives through the sheen,

where to a flopping fish its beak must cling,

while it struggles to take wing.


Flying fast and low over water,

cormorants in formation flutter,

their column to the east must race

by dusk to reach their breeding place.


The island ferry totes tourists toward its quay,

and spreads its wake across our bay.

Swells soon arrive to rock our boat,

and undulate the mirror on which we float.


They grow then crash along our shore,

where cliffs reflect their rhythmic roar,

and draw our ears and eyes to where

late-day light shares its flair.


Capped in green by cedar, pine and birch,

stacked limestone ledges outward reach,

their stone imbued with golden hue,

in harmony with the water’s blue.


Clouds pink then purple soon display,

while silhouetted against the sky,

across the strait some miles away,

island bluffs in darkness lie.


A lighthouse beacon from yonder shore

warns take care ‘tween here and there,

for from these waters cold and clear

come tales of woe, of dread and fear.


At first rumble of thunder, sailor beware,

for gale force winds may bring despair;

treacherous surf and currents shifting

could well lead to all hands missing.


Schooners’ graves dot these depths,

where storms their sails have cruelly shredded,

where rocks beneath the surface waited

till hulls they smashed and wrecks created.


Tales of ships and men forlorn

haunt my thoughts as we head home.

As darkness falls we hug the shore,

of the strait we call Death’s Door.


Elmer Lewis and his wife divide their time between Gills Rock and Evanston, Illinois, where he is Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University.

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