The New Compass: A Critical Review



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David Sanders



Summer Rental at Chincoteague


The boneyard nag of a fishing shack,

swaybacked and ready for reclamation,

falters above the tidal sound,

while permanent inhabitants

flit in and out of their plein air abode

or cling to pilings like winded swimmers.

We’re part of one of many summers.

Our paraphernalia still to unpack,

we’ve come prepared to be renewed,

for nothing much to occur. Vacation

allows for every happenstance

to steer the day. Shaky ground,


to seek out what cannot be found

by looking for it. See those shimmers

of light, off in the wavering distance?

—Birds that all week long we track;

that do not move or change location,

ever; that the guidebook showed                                           


were nonexistent—a motherlode

of wishful thinking. We are bound

to lock on any consolation,

anything in which we can immerse

ourselves before heading back. . .

Like table salt, the stars enhance


the night air. The endless dance

of ocean laps the dock. What rode

in on the tide rides out. The black

of water, marsh, and sky surround

the shack. From nowhere, then, green glimmers

of some living illumination


bob with the current’s halting invasion.

We watch them closely as in a trance:

here was something at last that hammers

our message home. What glowed?

Just jellyfish. But what else could astound

like their gentle, unannounced attack?








Consider these trees,

stationed on their slatted stands,

tended centuries


and trained to be small.

Root-pruned and limb-wired—such

techniques could enthrall


the quietest mind.

Appetite renders distant

the spruce one might find


clinging to a cliff

or maples burnished by wind,

positing as if


on each. As small as

they are, the feigned perspectives

offer up solace


(What could they be there?

What do you want them to be?

Islands built on air!)


among their trunks, burled

and dwarfed and stripped of their bark,

in our full-scale world.






Sanders, David. “Poems. The New Compass: A Critical Review 3 (June 2004) <>