by Jacob M. Appel
Through a sea of bowlers and boaters and crinoline
Glide the notables—stoop-shouldered Vanderbilt;
Saurian, moon-crowned Frohman, drawing cheers.
Reflected funnels ghost-dance in the uneasy surf.
Brine steams off the jetty. Whistles like bayonets
Saw passage for a neckless matron atop a sedan chair.
Vendors in newsboy caps hawk forty-eight star flags,
Cigars, sprays of ox-eye daisies. A steerage-bound girl,
Church-scrubbed, scraggy, whisks past an applecart
In the grasp of her elder sister, her gaze magnetized
By the mounds of polished fruit.
Up soars the gangway! Round grinds the anchor!
Then kisses, champagne, banjos strumming ragtime
Off the quarterdeck. Momentary flutter pier-side
As an electrified phaeton storms the throng like cavalry,
Doors opening in motion. Out flies its imperious,
Mutton-chopped driver, ranting at the harbormaster
While footman hoist parcels from the carriage. Oaths
Ricochet like grapeshot.
When the apple vendor recalls that balmy morning,
So many decades later, he’ll speak of this imperious
Latecomer who catches the final tug out of port.
Some days, he’ll cup an apple into the smooth, cool
Palm of the blossoming girl. Some days, his grip
Closes around hers, holding them boat afloat.
from The Cynic in Extremis (Able Muse Press. 2018)