Mastheads on Dublin Bay

Eric Machan Howd

Image of Eric Machan Howd

Eric Machan Howd

Mastheads on Dublin Bay was selected for MSUL’s themed call for work about Water, in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum’s fall 2023 exhibition, Flint is Family in Three Acts, featuring the photography of Latoya Ruby Frazier.

The boats on Dun Laoghaire harbor
sway with the storm, white caps
lick their hulls and bows.

Masts tick-tock in water
like freshly wound metronomes,
keep time for the visitors

who have come to discuss
business and communication,
the art of teaching

deals, contracts, and charters.
The sea spits out three student
sailors during their lesson, their small

vessels left churning in the harbor,
break against black jetty rocks. Media
was there, reporting to the whole island

how the children were safely returned
to their homes, how the west coast
was still flooded from Ophelia.

We walk against the harbor walls
toward James Joyce's tower, rain
soaks us as we search for rocks

and shells. One local identifies 
what we had gathered: limpets, small
aquatic snails that adhere themselves

to harbor rocks to feed off algae,
tenacious, like the Irish hold
on this land. Stately Buck Mulligan 

descends the tower to greet us 
and offers dining suggestions.
He encourages us to re-examine

our choices, our hungers,
our tastes. He sends us forth
to Glasthule to meet three

witches that own a thrift shop
that aids the blind. They pry
into our lives, ask of blood types 

and homeland. They give
everyone who visits them
a gift and need to know all

histories. They offer us an empty
box commemorating the sinking
of the Titanic. Shoes, soaked,

ruined, are placed in the box
and left with another store
that gives to those with cancer.

The bird on the conference windowsill
argues loudly as the researcher
presents on adjusting reading levels

to certain audiences, how goldfish
today have a longer attention span 
than the average human. The grey

skies lighten for a double rainbow
and for one moment, the harbor
settles down, the music of the masts

slows, and the winds drop their volume
to a low haunting howl
as we leave for America.

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