In a career replete with self-reinventions, our beloved contributing editor Melissa Green has recast herself as a forager of images, both from her native oceanfront landscape of the Winthrop, Massachusetts, and her own capacious imagination. We feature one in Little Star Weekly this week. It’s called “The Marsh at Evening.” Think of it as you read these lines from her memoir of Joseph Brodsky (and Derek Walcott), in the current issue of Parnassus:
[Joseph] would take my arm and we would walk along the marshes and beaches in the little web of my neighborhood. I knew his heart was bad and kept the pace slow, as if it were my long skirts that mandated our slackened gait and not his heart’s need. The first time we came over the crest of Winthrop Boulevard, with its wide expanse of Atlantic and equally wide sky, he was suddenly exhilarated. He kept repeating how much he loved it, how it reminded him of the Black Sea, where his father had taken him when he was young. As we walked slowly down to the seawall, his face was radiant. He was happy and free. He wanted me to look for a house for him in Winthrop, he was so taken with it. It was one of the many ideas and impulses that hopped madly through his mind. I did later look for a house for him in a desultory fashion, but by then his focus was elsewhere and the subject was not brought up again.
We walked to the end of the boulevard and, since it was low tide, squelched out on the wet sand to sit on the breakwaters, which are under an especially busy route into Logan Airport two miles away. The planes flew low as they crossed over the rocks where we sat, and Joseph, like an American boy, talked about making model airplanes as a child, hanging them from the ceiling of his room among gold foil stars in constellations.
He’d wanted to be a pilot, he said, but his bad heart had made it impossible. As the tide came in, he pointed enthusiastically at every plane, naming the carrier, the type of engine and fuselage, the country in which the plane had been built. That day, it was as if there had been no Siege of Leningrad, no Stalin, no exile. There was only the moment a plane came close and Joseph shaded his joyous face with his hand to discern its make. The light turned ruddy, and we had to splash through the rising tide to dry sand, but that day he was free and young, had never been hurt, and had the good strong heart of a ten-year-old boy, mad for flight.
Melissa Green is the author of The Squanicook Eclogues, Fifty-two, and Color Is the Suffering of Light, a memoir. Her selected poems will be published next year by Arrowsmith Press.