Wintah 1973.




The only problem with Maine is that you can’t eat the scenery – James Steele 1978



A blizzard buried Montreal
The temp arctic.
Minus zero.
Crashing with two New Zealanders
Across the street
From the Winston Churchill Pub
Only forty feet
through chest high snow.
To a beer was a gamble.
Life, death or frozen limbs.
More storms ahead
On the morrow
I bid adieu to my friends
To Marie-Claire
A waitress at the pub
“I’ll be back in the spring. Au revoir.”

I hitchhiked south.
Boston bound.
Grey low clouds
Snow drops like clots of cream.
A farmer drive me to the border
Guards wave me through the frontier.

On American soil.
No cars
No trucks
Only snow.
And the cold cold wind.
The night.
Skin freezing
Shivering bones
Tears of ice.
No traffic.
Only snow and cold.

Finally headlights
An Oldsmobile Toronado
Front end transmission
A Rocket V8
Over 4000 pounds.
The V8 beast stops
The lock pops up
I brush off the snow
Sit inside.
Warmer than warm.
The driver an old woman.
“My name’s Meryl. Can drive in this.”

“I’m from Maine. We know snow.”

We switched seats.
I drive 20 mph
Into the snowy night
Headlights barely pierce the snow.
The only vehicle on the road
On the way to Burlington.

I stayed the night
Meryl cooks stew on the stove.
After dinner
A fire in the living room.
Whiskey in a glass.

Outside the cold.
The snow.
The night howls around her house.
Yellow birch burns in the fireplace.
Warm feet
Warm hands
The room pure
New England
The North. Wintah 1973


No snow
In New York City.
Not cold neither.
Three years now.

Two inches of snow.
Not Omaha cold -40.
20 degrees Fahrenheit cold.
And sunny.
The wind a cruel cold
Fort Greene Park.
The two inches of snow trampled
Thousands and thousands of feets.
Each child’s step immortalized in the cold.
Steps atop steps
Like the ruins atop Troy.

The slope down from the Monument
Snow flattened by children’s sleds.
Hundreds of sleds
Thousands of shouts of glee.

This morning
No one, but me and the sun and the snow
And the cold.
Near Arctic cold.

Blackstrap Hill, Falmouth Maine
Five years old
With my brother, sister, and father.
No sun.
A gray sky.
None of us cold.
Inside our parkas.
Children from Maine never cold
Until the sun goes down.
We trudge through knee-deep snow.
Dragging a toboggan and a sled.
To the top of Blackstrap
I stand on the toboggan.
Slides slowly over the snow.
Arms out
For balance.
Picking up speed.
My father, “Jump.”
I don’t see why.
More speed.
I fly
Faster and faster.
Children in my path
No stopping.
I can’t fall.
I only fly.
At the bottom of the hill
A young girl
In my path.
No stopping
Shut eyes.
No thud.
No scream.
The toboggan arest.
Open eyes.
Step off.
People laughing.
Not my father.
“Go to the car.”
I go, the girl’s smile, I smile back.
The station wagon locked.
Sit on the snow
The air cold, the snow cold.
An hour later My father, brother, and sister
Dragging the toboggan and sled.
My father pulled me to my feet.
“Sit in the front. I’ll turn on the heat.”
Full blast all the way to Falmouth Foresides.

Not like today
Out the wind
In the sunlight
Fort Greene Park
Snow underfoot
The first snow in three years
But the same as Blackstrap,
Because as my grandfather once said,”There are two seasons in Maine. The season of good sledding And the season a bad sledding.”
Truth in those words.
Especially with more snow coming
In two days.
Good sledding ahead.


Vernon fished the Casco Bay from Peakes Island.
The other day-fishers know his boat.
A 1985 Seaway 22-footer running the Drunken Ledge,
The Cod Ledges,
Big Ridge, and the Tanta’s ‘punkin bottom’.
Pollock and cod in the winter.
All in sight of the Ram’s Head Light station.
Vernon 56.
Fishing all he know.
Not speaking much,
Except to the fish and his boat
Forty-one years of fishing
Still has all his teeth and hair.
Once a stud to the cougars at Billy Ray’s Tavern
They thought he was worth one night.
Not no more.
He smells too much like fish.

On a sunny January day Vernon trailed two long lines
Over the blister bottom of the Klondike.
A good haul of cod to sell at the Portland pier.
This his life.
The wet of the sea, the smell of fish, and…..
A three-foot wave broke o’er the bow.
The sun low off the shore.
No other boats were in sight.
Wind from the north.
Dark clouds on the flat horizon.
Casco Bay not flat for long.
Heavy seas ahead and behind.
Still plenty of fish on the lines.
Only two options;
Haul in the catch or cut bait and head to the shelter of the nearest island.
Inner Green.
The cold Atlantic wind skates across his skin.
Something bad Down East.
Bad but not wicked.
“Fuck it.”
No fool Vernon cut the lines.
Time to outrun the weather.
Maybe not enough time.
Throughout that evening the storm got serious.
No one at Billy Ray’s Bar seen Vernon.
Not asea nor ashore.

They say nothing.
Saying something was bad luck.
They drained their PBRs and watched the Bruins.
At midnight the tavern door opened wide.
Drenched to the bone.

“Rough ride home. Two Jamie’s, a ‘Gansett.”
He eyed the bar.
Four other fishermen on the stools.
“Get these landlubbers a drink too.”
Vernon says nothing else.
There was nothing to say.
A lifted finger.
Another round.
As many afore closing
Vernon knew his limit.


MmmmMagic Kkkklaxon Xxxxxray Thththat
A childhood stutter and stammer slurred my speech.
Across the narbor from Portland
Mouth resisted the passage of the and ghs.
Family and friends failed to decipher my words.
Mangled consonants and muttered vowels in my mouth.
Adults thought me stupid.
Schoolmates thought me retarded.
Three beat me.
I soon understood everyone is stupid
Even me.

My father took me to Maine Medical.
Doctor’s diagnosis
“His tongue is too big for his mouth. Slicing his palate with razors will free his tongue to work more.”
My father rejected their cure.
“My son will live with a lisp.”

I had more than that
A stammer, misjuxtaposition of syllables, lisp, mumbling
Thereafter my own language.
Words mine alone
Understood by none.

Our family moved from Falmouth Foresides
To the South Shore Of Boston
A Catholic school.
Nuns. Uniforms. Mass.
Hide my speech.
The nuns would none of that
The ruler on my wrist for a sloppy ths.
Same for gh
Slap slap slap
My classmates happy to be spared the rod
The more severe nuns believed me Satan spawned.
I was also left-handed.

Sister Mary Osmond understood my flaws.
Scheduled speech therapy.
Taught Palmer Penmanship
To my right hand.
Her efforts helped
Sadly the bullies relentless more than those in Maine
Strangely my speech in Latin was perfect
Mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa.
Forgive me forgive me forgive me a lot.
Priests understood my Latin
I believed in neither God or Satan.

Ruby Tuesday
Dreams of the Rolling Stones.
A teenager in the 1960s seeking to live forever young.
Through books.
The world.
None of us had to speak in the 60s or 70s.
Teachers and parents sought silence.
Singers and poets hid me from the and ghs.
We live with forgotten words, and the history of ancient scents.
My girlfriend
Smelling of
A road tarred with peaches.

Years later.
A stolen car.
A city.
New York City.
Different from all before
And everything more
Not magic
Only the being here more than now
The spoken stood once
In my way
But not with poems
Whose power lost to the modern age
But not for a boy with a thick tongue
Especially with a Boston accent.


The ACADIA BAY 2 on the Gulf of Maine

Out in the Atlantic
Above the Cashes Bank
A hundred miles east of Portsmouth
Calm seas
Close to winter
Tricky weather.
Today so far okay.
A slight swell from the deep.
Quentin slogs through the knee-deep catch.
Ninety-three minutes into his shift.
Four hours on.
Four hours off.

The aft awash
Red fish chewing bait.
The hold half-full.
Quentin never dry, always wet.
His fingers and toes
Icy old.
Christmas a week away.
Land way over the western sea.
Quentin not counting days
Nor the minutes.
Till land.
His eyes on the height of fish in the half full hold.
The net full.
More riches from the Cashes Bank.

On the Horizon
Another trawler
The Paper Sun.
Heavy with a tub of hake.
The sea never looks a lot like Christmas.
This far offshore.
Quinton noses the air.
Diesel fumes
The stink of fish.
The sea.
Always the sea.
Quinton not bathed in days.
Back ashore
New Bedford.
A few beers in Knuckleheads.
A burger and fries too.
A night in a cheap hotel
Then drive to Maine.
Three hours.
To Arundel
His mother Sister
A dog dog Penny,
A bath
More beer.
A home cooked meal and then Christmas
But not today
Not Tomorrow
Just hard labor
If lucky
Just four hours on
Four hours off
If wicked lucky
Work 24/7
Cold and wet eevery second

Aft awash with redfish
Gulls glide over the wake.
The sea always the sea.
The Atlantic always the Atlantic
Berths in New Bedford
Quinton’s boots stomp the pier
Waiting for that first bazz on
Merry Yulemas to one all and none.


Fir trees lined the sidewalk On Vanderbilt Avenue
Clinton Hill,
Spruce pines.
Chopped Up north from New England forests.
My homeland.
Trees For families and friends To celebrate Christmas.
The fragrance of evergreens,
The tree elves
Elysaah, Ruth, and Bobby
Hock trees and wreaths.
Working hard
Whilst I laze
On my yuletide throne
Surrounded by Trees.

Eyes closed
Dreaming Of 1958
My father
With ax in hand.
The pine woods outside Gorham Maine.
Snow on the ground
My brother and me
The two of us
In tow
In search of the perfect tree.

My mothers and the younger other us
Back in the Ford Station Wagon
Heat running
Full blast
Windows closed

On a cold winter afternoon.
Our breaths hang on the air.
Paralyzed by the chill.
Us in red hats.
Red mittens too.
Always deer hunting season
In Maine.

The land belongs to someone.
Not us.
My father very honest
Except during tree hunting season.

Born in Maine
As was his father
And our grandfather.
They know the rules.
One tree a family.

I remember
My older brother
A tree taller than my father
Our tree.
For Christmas.
My father spits in his hands
We stand back.
The tree down
To the snowy ground.
Sap bleeds from the stump.
Leaking the scent of pine
Into the winter air.

Same as today on Vanderbilt Avenue.
Hundreds of miles away from the Maine woods.
Decades distant from my youth.
Clouds overhead
Colder by the minute.
The scent of a hundred pine trees

The same
As The Maine Woods
An Evergreen memory
From long Ago

Coming Soon.
As always
On Clinton Hill
And up in Maine. Especially Gotham. Merry Yulemas.
One and all.


Walking a back road
From school
No sign of the sun
Leaden clouds overhead
Fields frozen stiff under deep snow.
A northerly wind from Montreal.
Grey slush underfoot
Cold wet seeping
Through soles
Another slog to Grandmother’s house.
Where waits
A warm pot belly stove.
Pull off boots
Peel off sox
Stick frozen toes
Under the hot stove

A cup of tea
Milk and sugar

No more the cold
Grandmother’s house
Maine winter
Only another half-mile
To go
Grandmother’s house
And Spring
Another four months away
Counting the days.
To April
No snow.


Early 70s
On Nauset’s nude beach
Hippies not yet punks.
A thick ledge of wet seaweed
The high tide mark.
Off with our clothes

Lay on the cool green algae
Our bare bodies sink beneath the sludge.
Comforted by the ocean’s flotsam.
The summer sun
We stand as one.
Naked to the elements
We laugh
Our seaweed skin hued the cold blue-green
Eyes met
As one into the ocean.
Waves. Current. The Atlantic.
The seaweed freed from our skin.
Naked youth.

Hippies not yet punks


Age six, my best friend Chaney and I
The end of the McKinley Road on Falmouth Foresides.
Portland across the harbor.
A Maine blue.
Seagulls skate the cloudless sky.
Chaney pulls out darts from his father’s den.

Hands me one.
I throw
Hit a gull.
The bird flutters to the mud flat. Blood.
Waves laps over its wings.
The sea takes its own.
Chaney puts away the darts.
I hadn’t even aimed at the gull.
We walk back home.
Not a word to anyone. Not even to Cathy Burns.
Whom we both loved her.
He was eight.
Always will be eight.
I will never forget him.

Cumberland County Kingdom

From the Kezar Pond to Saco Bay.
Old Orchard Beach to Bailey’s Island.
The land of my youth.
The summer camp on Watchic Pond
Built by my grandfather.
A frontline surgeon in WWI France.
A retreat from the horrors to Maine
With a nurse, my grandmother.
A noble woman from a 9th generation Maine family.
A family of five.
One my father

A huge farmhouse
In Westbrook under the shadow of the SD Warren paper mill.
Cumberland County a land of tall pines.
My best friend Chaney.
Found a basket of dead puppies.
We threw them into Portland Harbor.
The tide took them to sea.
My innocence destroyed by death.

Four years later a big-breasted girl at a drugstore counter.
“Will you walk me home?”
At 12 a walk was a walk.
I stuffed my comic in my jean’s back pocket.
Drained my vanilla soda.

A walk with the girl.
A path along the Presumpscot River
Past the paper mill.
No houses. No voices.
The grinding of the wood saws across the river
The murmur of cars far from Main Street.
In the woods.
She lifts her dress over her head.
Her breasts puffy pillows.

Touch. Soft. Nipples hard. They belong to her. Not Barbie.
She sighs. I run.
Chased by her laughter.
To my grandmother’s house.
Upstairs to a bedroom with sea murals
I lay in bed.
Watching the headlights across the painted sea.
East and west.
Into the Atlantic.

Peter Nolan Smith is devoted to the magic of poetry and New England.

Despite a stammer, stutter, lisp, and a tendency to mumble, he has been blessed with the power to recite poems lost to himself the seconds he says them.

That is poetry.


The wind, the sea, and of course chowder.

North of Dover-Foxcroft.

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