sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2019-03-14 01:47 am

A life defined as a rusted numbers station

My poem "From Lima to Beijing" has been accepted by Not One of Us. It is the record of a voyage never taken; it is subtitled "a love song of the Outer Antipodes." That is one of the oldest stories between me and [personal profile] spatch. I am glad to have it in print.

Today was an adventure which we did not entirely intend; some of it was lovely and some of it was too cold. Because I had to visit our new friend the incredibly inconvenient FedEx on Summer Street, it was agreed that I would meet [personal profile] spatch after his appointment in Harvard Square and we would head out together. I maintain this plan would have worked just fine if the 89 to Davis had arrived on time, or at all, as opposed to the 101 to Sullivan which after forty minutes' wait with a large box in my arms is what I actually took. Rob met me at South Station. The bus to FedEx was without incident, unless you count the scathing things I texted to my husband about the Seaport ("Too much glass, not enough sea"). And then we were at liberty in South Boston with nothing planned but no special desire to spring right back into the jaws of the MBTA. Because we could see its cranes and the distantly block-stacked colors of its shipping containers much better even by late day, we looked for a way into the Conley Terminal, but the blue trash barrel at the foot of the American flag was adamant about "Restricted Area—Do Not Enter." We thought about walking back over the short curving bridge whose name I do not know (another Summer Street Bridge? Does it have its own ghosts under those cold channel currents?) into Fort Point.

We walked eastward on East First Street, behind the shuttered yards of the ex-Edison Power Plant and presently behind the terminal itself. There was a peach-grey sunset in the sky already, glimmering and overcast. We passed a dog park, a couple of baseball diamonds, and a street corner enigmatically named for a "Patrolman Seth A. Noyes, Died in the Line of Duty October 18 1870" before we found a kind of street-parallel greenway that turned out to be the Thomas J. Butler Memorial Park. To our left we had attractive if slightly winter-crunchy trees and a tall fence behind which stood blue Erector-struts of the terminal's cranes; at regular intervals were informative signs I thought of photographing, not least because they included an excellent map of the original dimensions of Boston Harbor and the succeeding generations of landfill including the additional little fringe of Dorchester Heights on which we were walking. When the park ran out, we were faced with the chain-linked back gates to the terminal and a dip of brown grass and temporary bogland under a grey slurry of after-snow across which we cheerfully sludged because we could see sea glinting on the other side. "This is serious Eddie Coyle territory," Rob observed: Boston in the desolate seasons in between seasons. The sea was Pleasure Bay, once open water and now scalloped out of landfill, looped in with a causeway we saw human silhouettes crossing, sometimes with dogs; the hummocks of land like winter-furrowed fields beyond were Thompson Island and Spectacle Island, looking much too close to need a boat to cross. Planes on approach to Logan were coming in like the Pleiades—roaring white constellations tipped, like ships, port red, starboard green. Delta, Alaska, Spirit, Japan Airlines. Walls of intermodal containers rising behind us bright and flat as Lego bricks. COSCO, Magellan, "K" Line, Maersk. We were out to Castle Island by then, the fivesquare granite walls of Fort Independence; we looked at the soft brushed-steel tints of the water and the skimmed parchment gleam lingering under the sky and the park-green paint peeling from the railing at the edge of the jetty. I liked its cast-iron serrations, like the scales of a dragon's back. I liked that the park benches were old and wooden and sounded like muffled xylophones when you struck their backs. (They were not defensive. You could sleep on them.) We walked around the fort, all the wet mottling of stone. The way old fortifications overgrow amazes me; there is a sort of turf roof on this one. We found the South Boston Korean War Memorial, the memorial for Robert M. Greene who looks like a creased bronze-green herm in a firefighter's helmet. We do not know who the dead red rose was left for on the steps of a walled-up door at the back of the fort. Rob thinks perhaps Lieutenant Robert F. Massie, whose death in a duel in 1817 did not really lead to the true-crime original of "The Cask of Amontillado." I wish I had gotten a picture of the low, somewhat ramshackle building whose yard is full of old pallets and tires and tarpaulins. It is the old U.S. Army Signal Corps Station; it is painted the same weather-scaled slate-blue all over and there is a barometer nailed up by the front door. All a ghost would have to do is step out onto the porch, glance at the weather, and the time in the yard would change. It must not quite have been the off-season because Sullivan's was open and the parking lot was full of people eating fried seafood in their cars. Not having a car and not wanting to eat out in the freezing raw wind off the now dusk-darkening water, we decided to look for dinner elsewhere and there our troubles began. Suffice to say that walking from Castle Island to South Station via East and West Broadway and eventually the Fort Point Channel was not a shortcut to anything. We ended up at the South Street Diner, where I had a corned beef sandwich in keeping with the general air of impending St. Patrick's and Rob was not intimidated by his quantity of buttermilk pancakes and ham.

At South Station the T comprehensively fell over—a train already ten minutes late did not quite pull into the station, then proceeded to sit on the tracks while the theoretically real-time sign flashed "BRD" and eventually the PA system told us to expect a fifteen-minute wait due to a disabled train—and we had to taxi home, which I feel proves my earlier point about counterproductivity and the environment. The cats were pleased to see us. Hestia especially was intrigued by the atmosphere of corned beef which still clung to my person. It was a good inadvertent adventure, even if my fingers stopped working from cold somewhere mid-Telegraph Hill. We saw a fishing trawler winching in its nets between Castle Island and Deer Island. We saw mallards in the clear weed-drifting water of Pleasure Bay, nibbling algae off the flat stones at the curve of the beach. The air smelled like brine and we watched the tide go out. Rob took a picture of me, very cold and very happy. Here is another part of the city I am getting to know.


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