Cacaway Island sits in the shadow of Rock Hall’s spume

where an osprey makes a cheeping sound

that implores you to understand

a small bird of prey can’t bellow or scream its blood-lust,

but coyly perched on buoys and watchtowers,

guarding farms, ditches and canals,

seems a deranged songbird, its chirp or cry disguised

as the speech of Malvolio, (not flightless though.)


I screw my bifocals on but lose the focus

and almost my footing

on the cockpit’s bright coaming,

the bird’s plaintive voice calling out

from a purpled well in the mantled trees.

Gone below I retrieve a long lens to catch him

and back on deck at last can see

a small grayish head and yellow raptor’s beak

spying on me in the early dark descending

over Langford Creek. My first osprey of the season.


But success is temporary.

A sudden splash in the darkness

and the S-shaped neck of a counterfeit appears:

a black cormorant rising, a fish on its spear.

One quick flash of its undersides

before it too slips away, silent as a swan on the Bay.

Michael Salcman is a physician and teacher of art history.
Recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hopkins Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Ontario Review, and New York Quarterly.  Michael is the author of two collections: The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises), nominated for The Poet’s Prize, and The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises, 2011). His anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors and diseases is forthcoming. He was chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary system in North America, a mixture of fresh and brackish water that incorporates life and plant forms from both riverine and oceanic species. For sailors this Bay, 220 miles long and 20 miles wide, interposed between the mainland of Maryland and Virginia and the Eastern Shore of the Delmarva Peninsula, its mouth open to the Atlantic Ocean, is a boater’s nirvana composed of still and running waters, shellfish and rockfish beloved of John Smith, and low-lying banks reminiscent of Dutch landscapes. Langford Creek is one of five fingers emerging from the Chester River, the second longest river on the Eastern Shore. The Creek is the size of a river but one filled with shallows; less than two miles from its mouth is Cacaway Island, a small protuberance behind the charming town of Rock Hall from where the annual migration of Canadian geese is particularly visible in the early Fall. The thoughts in this poem were occasioned by a long ago cruise my wife and I made to this snug anchorage where two or three boats swung on their rodes and the sound of bird life was everywhere. The place has led to many poems.




Copyright 2009