Anne Compton

Three Poems

We are edged with mist. We make an unsubstantial territory.

after The Waves, Virginia Woolf

He could never keep our names straight.
Make a cup of tea, would you, Sophie, when I wasn’t.
Or he knew something we didn’t.

They went, mother and father, brother and brother,
sister and brother the long coast way. Six, in as many years.
That stretch of leavetaking that left the rest of us edged in mist.
The shapes of us indistinct, sifting through one another. The single
plenary now. Lessened or enlarged
depending on how you feel about given names.
Be them, for them, we said, in our one voice.

Where I live now, there are boats hauled up-shore. Open
to the elements. Letters missing from their painted-on names –
The Belle, The Hope – that sort of thing.
Flakes of caulking over the beach pebble. Flux of light.


“Sorting Stockings, Italy”: Pound’s translation of Rihaku’s “The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance” appeared in Cathay (1915), translations of classical Chinese poems by Li Po and others. My poem changes the wording slightly.


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