Four Poems by Matthew Nienow

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Who Belongs

to the long on
& on of the boatyard’s dim

cycle: boats hauled

to the tune of gravity’s rude
tests, while the gravel palls

below what’s left of too many

spent hulls
once ready for squalls,

now no more than

a few dark feet gone
from life’s longest run:

rot’s oblivion:



Opening the Shop

Swing wide the double doors in the dust rising dim

Unlock the heart you keep in the cabinet of your gnarled self

Unlatch each finger from its presupposed grip

No hammer is yet needed

No blade or water stone skimmed with dark grains of yesterday’s work

Only the light’s steady buzz

And your eye’s slow progress

As over planking it passes

As over frames and the stern sheet’s long horseshoe

Each bronze nail puckered surely around the rove

Leave your haste behind you

More than a day’s work is at stake



I Have a Canvas Work Tote Entirely Devoted

to my essential hammers, and all my hammers
are essential, each mallet, sledge, cross- and ball-peen,

bronze-headed, shafts of angular hickory

or smoothed ash, a few worn to the thin edge
of their lives by the work of strangers who

abandoned them to thrift, their heads clamoring

together in the bag’s soot dark, while, as in the marina’s
masted haven, their handles rise up past

the canvas horizon, begging to be used.



The Magazine

is evening-lit in your hands
so the boat it shows

in its small square of water
has the light of the room, the windows

behind you, the reflected bay—
the magazine’s horizon

nearly the same, so no matter
how you try to strip the room

of metaphor and meaning, the room
becomes the boat, which you are in,

hardly alone with your red sails
and curtain wind




Matthew Nienow lives in Port Townsend, Washington with his wife and two sons, where he designs and builds high-end wooden paddle boards. His debut collection of poems, House of Water, is just out from Alice James Books. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, New England Review, and Poetry, which awarded him a 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. He has also been recognized with a 2011 Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a 2012 Fellowship from Artist Trust of Washington State.

Header photo of sailboat on bay courtesy Pixabay. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.