Widows like lighthouse beacons with no answering ship. Old Croat women with black buns behind square faces staring
grim as garden gnomes from porches as we children skate by.
Ears studded with fire-opals or tiny crosses, these matriarchs nailed to their many losses. They let the gulls do their screaming. No one hears them moan to themselves like boats sawing against the pier.
No one knows they keen with sea bells at night. Their bellowing erupts into empty houses. The low-slung purse seiners bob at rest, their tall cross-masts in dockside rows.
Family enterprises, net-hauling boats that ride low on waves, flinging their crew into the sea.
Men who haul herds of tuna into tanks, unload their daily catch and wait for a price from the Forty Thieves’ Market. Yankelovitch and Salieni fare alike on a good day, though not a bad one, barely get a living from the sea, less well fed than the pelicans.
But fishing’s still a good business, and most San Pedro families put their men to sea, the Portuguese and the Slavs, Italians and Czechs. Here because they know the ocean trades, they finger rosaries side by side at Mass, count their catch, then drink and dance the surplus away at summer festivals on the docks where bands play loud
beside the bobbing boats in the breakwater dark. Sea smells drift, mixed with frying squid, always a scold of salt in your nose, on the beach the burr smell
of rotten seaweed. The harrying gulls. Everywhere the ocean’s devout widows.
Rachel Abramson Dacus is a poet and dramatist whose works include the spoken word CD A God You Can Dance, and the poetry books Earth Lessons, Femme au Chapeau. Her recently published book, Gods of Water and Air, is a collection of poetry, prose, and drama. She has written on a variety of subjects, from travel in Italy to growing up a rocket scientist's daughter during the race-to-space Cold War era. Her poems, stories, essays, reviews, plays and interviews have appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Fringe Magazine, Many Mountains Moving, Prairie Schooner, Rattapallax, and many other journals. At present Rachel is completing a drama about the great Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Impresario. Her play, Through the Curtain, is scheduled for production in the Fall of 2013. She is a member of PEN Center USA, lives in Walnut Creek, California and raises funds for nonprofit organizations. Read more about her at http://racheldacus.net.