A Perfect Summer Day
by Milton P. Ehrlich
A perfect day begins the night before.
A mackerel net is set in a fireball of a setting sun.
Up at dawn before marauding seals
have cleaned off the catch,
I fillet them on the shore tossing bloody entrails
to screeching gulls hovering overhead
I deliver a feed to my neighbors and friends.
I’m awed by the grandeur of pristine air
and sun-flooded clouds as white as a linen wedding dress.
In a sky lit from behind by a quintessential blueness,
I gather wild strawberries for breakfast.
I munch on June Ellen’s homemade granola
and one of her gargantuan cowboy-cookies.
I cruise across St Mary’s Bay in a Boston Whaler
to snorkel off Wheeler’s Bar at low tide for the mother lode
of bar-clams and maybe even poach a lobster or a bushel
of hefty crabs.
While mackerel and beer-soaked corn are on the grill,
I’ll down a few Mooseheads, before sauntering along
the shore eyeballing red foxes, who sit like Cheshire cats
in front of an old lobster box.
It was used as a table when they were fed by Leonard,
who is now propped up on a throne of pillows.
His glazed eyes still search the horizon for his nemesis,
the seal, his shotgun at the ready, only now, it’s just a cane.
I’m reassured to still see herons, sentinels of the bay,
standing on one leg, hunting for morsels of the sea.
A bevy of piping plovers and terns tiptoe on the sandy shore
in a flurry of white feathers nattering with ospreys, gulls
and cormorant cronies.
Scattering crows, squawking chanticleers cackle,
caw-cawing ahead of me.
I see apparitions of driftwood jungle-creatures,
a gallery of sculptures even Rodin and Giacometti might envy:
A horse head with knots for chestnut eyes, a gnarled octopus
curled around cattail punks reaching for the sky, an elephant
with a broken tusk plunked in plush maidenhair marsh-fern
as if it were a grove where elephants go to die.
A gaunt giraffe feeds on fluttering green leaves
high up in an aspen’s branches, a reindeer’s
bleached white antlers protrude in rust-colored clay
and verdant kelp.
A unicorn dips his horn into the swirling Gasperaux,
sweetening the gushing freshet flow
so smelt can leave the estuary and breed in the sea.
A slow walk in the labyrinthine shallow water
empties my mind into quietness.
monitor the underwater show:
under lucent plankton, schools of silver minnows flash by.
Barnacle-covered fiddler crabs careen sideways
like inebriated pals, a pair of small red fish
stealthily lumber along resembling twin submarines.
I step over cracked carapaces, steamers
and chipped blue mussels
revealing an opalescent inner layer.
Suddenly, I’m dazzled by a four-foot eel darting away
into emerald green eel grass,
reminding me of how Leonard once trapped a slew
of squirming eels, nailing them to a bench, skinning
and smoking them for shipment to a Bavarian Rathskeller.
On the way back I see my father’s profile in a passing cloud
and feel an ache of regret that such an avid fisherman
never got to visit my paradisial bay.
Observing my shadow I reflect on how ephemeral
and transient we are, and how elusive moments
of perfect happiness can be. I also wonder
how come my shadow is so much taller than me.
My perfect day ends slumbering in an old iron bed
with creaking springs that once cranked out
a progeny of eighteen They made do with a hand pump
and a two-seat outhouse, still standing next to the barn
listing to the side like a slowly sinking ship.
PHOTO: Cormorants perched on pier pilings, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Photo by Rixie.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There is no more beautiful destination than Prince Edward Island, Canada. This poem recounts a day in the life on the island.
NOTE: Prince Edward Island is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, west of Cape Breton Island, north of the Nova Scotia peninsula, and east of New Brunswick. Its southern shore bounds the Northumberland Strait. The island has two urban areas, and in total, is the most densely populated province in Canada. The island’s landscape is pastoral, with wooded areas and rolling hills. The coastline has a combination of long beaches, dunes, red sandstone cliffs, salt water marshes, and numerous bays and harbors.
MAP: Prince Edward Island circled in red.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Milton P. Ehrlich Ph.D. is an 89-year-old psychologist and a veteran of the Korean War. He has published poems in Poetry Review, The Antigonish Review, London Grip, Arc Poetry Magazine, Descant Literary Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Red Wheelbarrow, and The New York Times.