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James R. Scrimgeour

from The Route and Other Poems (1996)

The Economics Professor Visits St. John,

arrives on the ferry from St. Thomas, finds
2/3 the island a National Park (donated
by the Rockefeller family) with two camprounds —
one, privately owned with “L” shaped tents
on platforms of seasoned wood;

                                        he unpacks, finds himself
walking down a dirt road — a long, narrow dirt road,
finds himself drawn like a metal filing
toward a magnet,
                                       toward the pole,
the stone column in the center of the clearing
with an old broken windmill on top,
the old sugar mill;

                                       he finds himself standing there
on the cliff looking down — not at the white sand,
the Caribbean, the snorkelers, the dots and dashes
of bright colors, the flecks in the clear blue —

                                       but at the more somber
view, the dark, half-hidden wall on the ledge
below, a mosaic of local shells and rocks
marking an old trail from the slaves’ living quarters
to the mill — to the circular path round
and around the mill, where people and horses
were whipped and walked round and around —

grinding the cane
                                       startled
by the dark forms writhing up out of old ruts,
spirits rising, like mist from the earth,
like steam from old kettles —

                                        the grey-brown fog
condenses into liquid, then solid form,
takes distinct human shape,
                                       their features
become clear;
                                       their eyes, deep wells
brimming with thousands of years of human misery . . .

© James R. Scrimgeour

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Rocking with Quinn

at 6:30 am — everyone else, my wife,
my daughter, her husband, resting after
the creation, after the first six days
of my grandson’s life, rocking
in the chair we bought as a baby
present, rocking in the same basic,

elemental rhythm as the sea, the strands
of grey beard on my bowed chin mingling
with Quinn’s wispy newborn locks —

the slight shudder that shakes
his entire body — goes through
me also — the warmth of his small

6 day old head seeps through his new
outfit, his blanket, my rainbow trout
T shirt to my chest, just as

my warmth seeps through to him —
so peaceful, so quiet, so serene,
as the swaddling cloth, our clothes,

the newborn and aging skin dissolve
in the stream of spirit traveling
both ways — like the warmth

mingling together — as if we were
not already, would not always be
merged, as if any combination of cloth

and flesh could ever keep us apart.

© James R. Scrimgeour

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