Seeing Mercer, Maine

Jul 27, 2018

Today’s poem is “Seeing Mercer, Maine” by  Wesley McNair. Wes was Maine’s fourth poet laureate and is the author of ten books of poems, most recently The Unfastening. He’s currently professor emeritus and Writer in Residence at the University of Maine Farmington, where he directed the creative writing program for many years.

He writes, “My little town of Mercer does not appear on many maps. With a population of 600 or so, it's located at the periphery of Route 2, Maine's east-west highway. In 'Seeing Mercer, Maine,' I address those who've passed us by on their way to someplace more important. I wrote the poem to describe what, going so fast, they did not see.” 

Seeing Mercer, Maine
by Wesley McNair

Beyond the meadow
on Route 2, the semis
go right on by,
hauling their long
echoes into the trees.
They want nothing to do
with this road buckling downhill
toward the Grange and Shaw
Library, Open 1-5 P.M. SAT,
and you may wonder
why I’ve brought you here,
too.  It’s not SAT,
and apart from summer, the big
event in town’s the bog
water staggering down the falls.
Would it matter if I told you
people live here—the old
man from the coast who built
the lobster shack
in a hayfield;
the couple with the sign
that says Cosmetics
and Landfill; the woman
so shy about her enlarged leg
she hangs her clothes
outdoors at night?  Walk down this road
awhile.  What you see here in daytime—
a kind of darkness that comes
from too much light—
you’ll need to adjust
your eyes for.  The outsized
hominess of that TV dish,
for instance, leaning
against its cupboard
of clapboard. The rightness
of the lobsterman’s shack—
do you find it, tilted
there on the sidehill,
the whitecaps of daisies
just cresting beside it
in the light wind?

Poem copyright ©1998 Wesley McNair. Reprinted from The Town of No & My Brother Running, David R. Godine, 1998, by permission of Wesley McNair.