Erica Funkhouser

Dec 31, 2011 No Comments by Sea Stories

Love Poem with Harbor View

There, splashed on the floor,
lies the light,
****helplessly yellow.
It has been out all night

****doing Lord knows
what, and now it is missing
****this morning’s addition
to your new goatee,

****the exuberant darkness
forged from a good night’s
****sleep. Outside, the ships
lashed to the wharves

****are slowly unloaded.
What do they know?
****Not even our names.
Cargoes accumulate on the quay,

****little self-absorbed cities
with eye-level skylines.
****I have woken before you.
Your are too young to sleep beside,

****and yet you sleep
magnificently, the heat pouring
****from your body’s furnace.
In damp rooms

****all over Amsterdam,
restless eyes scour every visible
****surface for reassurance.
Perhaps my questions

****are not large enough,
if they can be satisfied
****by a single peninsula
of beard. One week ago,

****like a sweep’s smudge,
the first shadow started
****below your tender lip.
Now, a field of black tulips

****prepares to unfold.
In a moment the buying and selling
****will begin. The light
will find its way

****to coffee pots and guilders
and hand-ground lenses,
****to the fruits of other lands
ripening beneath your window.

****Poor impartial window.
Poor light, with its taste
****for glitter and glass,
Poor Holland not waking in your bed.

Erica Funkhouser, “Love Poem with Harbor View” from Pursuit.

The Women Who Clean Fish

The women who clean fish are all named Rose
or Grace.  They wake up close to the water,
damp and dreamy beneath white sheets,
thinking of white beaches.

It is always humid where they work.
Under plastic aprons, their breasts
foam and bubble.  They wear old clothes
because the smell will never go.

On the floor, chlorine.
On the window, dry streams left by gulls.
When tourists come to watch them
working over belts of cod and hake,
they don’t look up.

They stand above the gutter.  When the belt starts
they pack the bodies in, ten per box,
their tales crisscrossed as if in sacrament.
The dead fish fall compliantly.

It is the iridescent scales that stick,
clinging to cheek and wrist,
lighting up hours later in a dark room.

The packers say they feel orange spawn
between their fingers, the smell of themselves
more like salt than peach.

“The Women Who Clean Fish” first appeared in Natural Affinities (Alice James Books, 1983)


Raised in Concord, Massachusetts, Erica Funkhouser studied at Vassar College and Stanford University. She is the author of several collections of poetry, including: Earthly (Houghton Mifflin, 2008); Pursuit (2002); Sure Shot and Other Poems (1992); and Natural Affinities (1983).

She was a recipient of a 2007 Guggenheim Foundation grant for poetry. She has also worked as a playwright.

She lives in Essex, Massachusetts and teaches poetry-writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hibernal 2012, Littoral Currents

About the Editors

Casey R. Schulke grew up along the Kuskokwim River in a rural Athabascan village in Alaska fishing for king salmon and mushing her sled dog team. She now resides on the shores of Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska. Casey's a poet, a naturalist, a dog-lover, has two birds, and is married to a wonderful man.
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