In Deep

Author photograph: Sue Ann Minutaglio  

Although the poems in Tom Mallouk’s Nantucket Revisited tell us he is a man acquainted with grief and aware of the destructive forces of the natural world, they also remind us of the healing properties of sea and shore, in this case those of the poet’s beloved Nantucket. The book is graced by nine exquisite photographs of the island. Christopher Bursk has said, “Tom Mallouk’s Nantucket Revisited takes us on a fearless navigation of ‘strange, familiar things’: feral cats, Chaplinesque plovers, osprey, jack pines, bass slime, a narrow bay in ‘onyx dress fringed with white lace.’ We are immersed in the ‘sudsy edge of the tide line,’ in the ‘glint of swells.’ This elegiac and elegant, visceral and valiant poetry loves the world in all its ‘sandy grit’ and invites us to do the same. When you finally and reluctantly put this book down, you will have been empowered to face the grief that is so much a part of our lives and celebrate the beauty that helps us to survive it.” Wyn Cooper notes that “these carefully crafted, thoughtful poems don’t just invoke Nantucket, they inhabit it. Tom Mallouk describes time spent on the island with fish, birds, sea and sand, and summer days with family and friends.

Cover Photo by John Minutaglio
These poems go beyond mere description to investigate the nature of our world in language that’s both calming and very much alive.” And this from Hayden Saunier: “The rich particulars of landscape and seascape intertwined with memory and loss are the hallmark of these carefully crafted poems. As Tom Mallouk confronts and contemplates the passage of time with keen language and an observant eye, he surprises and consoles us with the pleasures of the moment held and suspended in ‘attention’s cupped hands.’”

Tom Mallouk first came to Nantucket in 1979 with his wife and dear friends John and Sue Ann Minutaglio. He caught his one and only striped bass on that trip. Every trip since has been memorable, and over the years he has absorbed some of the spirit of the island. Nantucket has been a blessing for him and those he loves, and these poems are one way to return the blessing. Mallouk’s work has appeared in a number of literary journals, including GW Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Quercus Review, and Red Rock Review. He was runner up in both 2010 and 2012 for the Bucks County poet laureate position. A psychotherapist for many years, Tom Mallouk resides in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with his wife, Eileen Engle.

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ISBN 978-1-936482-47-4

Copyright © 2013 by Thomas Mallouk

6" x 9" paperback, 48 pages




After a night long with waking, fearful
with inexplicable clatter and the frowning
men in black robes looking down, I have
come to spend some time with the sunrise.

The tentative light, so recently distant,
draws near, the gray western horizon
giving way to color. There is welcome
in surrender. When the birds begin to call

their two or three note-calls, I listen.
The delicate hair at the base of my neck
receives the cool breeze as it freshens. Slowly
I realize I am not a stranger here

but have estranged myself.
When the sun alights on that highest
outcropping, I will follow it to the place
the day will make for me in this world.


If I’d known thirty years ago the striped bass
I caught off the south shore in the wind,
rain and sea spray of May,

the one I thought
was a snagged rock till the rock began to move,

the one I hooked on a rented rod
with a set so severe
it looked more like a bow and arrow
and a surface lure no one who knew
what he was doing
would ever use that time of year,

the one I cranked in as far as I could
with a rusted reel and dragged to shore
when the reel froze the first time I went surf fishing,

the one whose tail touched the ground
when I held it by its lower jaw
and lifted it up into my armpit to dwarf
our German Shepherd in the photo John took,

the one that was the only striped bass I would ever catch
because soon you were pregnant and I didn’t know
this new life would take its toll on my fishing,

I would have paid more attention to the cold
seeping through the eyelets of my boots
and burrowing into my feet,
to the numb spidery vine
climbing my calves,

to the thirty shades of gray
and the just perceptible juncture of ocean and sky,

to the hot, giddy, electric prod when the rock
began to move—

I would have licked the salt spray
from my drooping mustache and tasted
the bass slime on my puckered fingers.

In Memoriam

for my in-laws John and Eileen Engle

The soft sand beneath the dune at Cisco beach
is strewn with little chunks of cement,

evidence of the home the sea reclaimed.
The dune’s steep edge blocks the off-shore

wind, freshened since the clouds rolled in
and temperatures dropped. The beach retains

the day’s warmth and we sit huddled
like monks and nuns in the shadow of the cliff,

hoods of our sweatshirts snugged. Broken wires
protrude from the dune like severed roots of a giant tree

felled by a rogue wave. And I think of him,
the way he too came down with a sickening thud.

She passed nine weeks earlier; slow erosions
every day washed away the thinning film of her.

We’ve come to this place to remember them
and to learn the name of my daughter’s unborn

son. We shelter each other with each other
in the presence of these strange, familiar things:

still warm sand, cloud cover, the gray
glittering ocean, sea gulls scavenging leftovers

on the beach, and the seals’ coal-dark
heads bobbing just beyond the breakers.

Jack Pine Shadows

Mid-morning on the deck, tiny
white, blue, yellow and pink flowers
sprinkled amid the native grasses
and the dried brown tops of reeds.
No birds, but butterflies and bees
circulate among the blossoms.

By evening jack pine shadows
obscure the flowers and birds emerge,
flit above the yarrow, shadbush
and goldenrod to nip insects in mid-flight.

I’ve come to believe grief,
that abandoned underground maze,
connects each loss to all others.

Even now with sun beyond the horizon,
the sky layered peach, amber, fuchsia
and red, my eyes find recesses
in the foliage. Tomorrow we must leave.
Trivial, yet my chin is pulled to my chest
and the dark catacombs where what
remains of those I have lost is left.

Photograph by Kaitlin Engle Mallouk

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