Avola, Cape Cod
Thirteen generations up our lineage a teenaged
Hopkins tossed about on a Mayflower voyage—
Constance, as if foreshadowing, derives from
the word constant: invariable, regularly recurrent,
continuing without pause, steadfast, faithful.
Constant, an odd word for a place so variable
in geography, but even in its coastal shape-
shifting this Cape remains steadfast and faithful.
Standing on a spit of beach facing west, the
high Atlantic tide feeding at the flesh of
my heels, I look not to the ocean but to our
gray-shingled saltbox cottage. Her nametag,
an artisan hewn quarter board with painted
black background and letters gilded in
fourteen karat. Backwards it reads: Alova
or A lover, without the southern drawl.
This house, my unrequited love, open only
for summer visitation, was built by the briny
hands of a great, great uncle. A sea scavenger,
he wheel-barrowed the remains of a barn,
tacked it together with a shipwreck’s leftovers,
his labor documented by a black and white
photograph, yellowing with age, handed
down through our family like a keepsake quilt.
This house, mothering us with cedar-splinter
kisses, groaning under her protective weight
in a nor’easter, the gale winds spinning
directionless through a tarnished weather vane,
a house true to her namesake, hefty as a silk-
bearing ship, lifting her skirt to the errant waves,
holding fast to an ebbing shore, rigged firm by
wraiths, captained by unwinking heritage keepers.
Previously published in Sea Stories, 2011