In honor of poetry month in April, Friends of Herring River invited local poets to submit works relevant to the Herring River. Many wonderful poems were received and are published in this special edition of the "Herring Run." Their work was inspired by the beauty of the Herring River Estuary. We salute the poets for sharing their thoughtful work for this newsletter.
The last poem was forwarded by Sam and Paula Aggers. It was found in the attic of Belvernon, home of Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker where the Aggers lived at the time the poem was found. The 1909 poem was written and performed by Martha Baker, daughter of the Captain at a meeting in connection with the building of a [dyke] to drain the Marsh.......
Following the Martha Baker poem is a note from John Portnoy that explains the historical context in which the Baker poem was written. Enjoy.
Herring River Restoration
Its mouth will widen over years.
Water will flow and overflow
in places it has not been
in over a century.
Will herring again run
Will we fish once more
at Bound Brook Island
below the Atwood-Higgins house,
near the shimmering birches?
Herring River Again
Let tide roll again
into the estuary and out.
Let it scour century's sediment
left by the dammed slow flow.
Let salt marsh flourish
and herring run thick again.
Let the unstopped river run.
I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world
and older than human blood in human veins. (Langston Hughes)
For centuries Now, we know.
you ran and we act.
back and forth You will have
between land your life back.
and sea You will again
uninhibited, free make your way
giving up some freshness down to the sea
receiving salt in return through the marsh
mingling in between where peat will
into a nutritious slowly build,
nurturing brine where the stately
serving, sustaining heron will hunt
the lowly quahog and the herring run
and the pearl again.
of the sea.
and straightened Leo Thibault 4/2021
a way. And the
the salt grass
and bullrush flourished
the hermit crab
found a home.
Then, the earth dam
slowing, stopping, choking
We can win this one
River sings to me.
Please let me go, set me free.
Let the tides cleanse me.
A Haiku for the Herring River Restoration:
Welcome osprey, terns,
willets, and snowy egrets.
Emily Greenspan, Wellfleet and Brooklyn
Herring River, Bell's Neck
Strokes of light glisten on the river
this August morning as the tide
does its narrow daily erasure.
To be washed clean every six hours,
think how easily one could forget
what needs forgetting, listening
instead for unseen marsh birds
and whatever else is hidden
in the salt grass barely touched
by the russet glow of summer’s end.
Phalanxes of alewives attack their
shadows. Fiddler crabs retreat
like scattershot into their crab-holes.
We could almost stop breathing
if we wanted, we could almost
dissolve into the ebb and flow
and become pure air, egret,
dragonfly, or the steady gurgle
of water half fresh, half salt. But
the sun’s blinding glitter breaks
these dreams. We stand in tidal muck,
wearing rubber boots. Old irrigation ditches
crisscross like creases in a soggy map.
Let’s just pay attention.
What else should we do? The rosy blur in the sky,
the meander of the river, the smudgy hummocks.
Pay attention to the pull and sway.
Let us give thanks ...
Oh, what a Day!
Let us give thanks
by the rude bridge
that arches the flood,
our Little River,
goes unvexed to the Sea!
With a nod to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Abraham Lincoln
John F Patterson