Fishermen’s Wives

Fishermen’s Wives Memorial

Poetry Contest

          The winner of the 2010 Fishermen’s Wives Memorial Poetry Contest was Diane Giardi, for her poem “The Fishermen’s Wives.”   Diane Giardi is an artist, art teacher and poet; she has served on the faculty of Buckingham, Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge and at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  Although not formally trained in poetry, she has written ever since she was very young and is enthusiastic about writing and her Memorial topic:  “I was excited to go down and look at the statue again….I sat next to it to write on a windy March day and couldn’t help feeling connected to the emotion behind it.”  Diane’s artwork can be viewed on her website: ( dianegiardi)

The contest also recognized three finalists: Wayne Soini for his poem “Listening in Gloucester,” Nancy LeGendre for her poem “Constancy,” and Douglas Goldman for his poem “Ever the Same: Gloucester, Massachusetts.”


The Fishermen’s Wives

by Diane Giardi


We stand here for you


A triad of stability.

Time is slower now,

Although we are so very busy.

We are in wait,

In watch,

In constant vigil.


Joey has grown so, you would be amazed.

He clenches on to me still,

But soon his fist will open

To embrace the world on his own.

Sara is forming new words,

Always making us laugh.

Thank God for this.


There is an intermission now from full joy,

Our family circle not whole,

We feel the gap of you.

Purposeful tasks fill our days.

We move on, make do,

Taking solace in the comfort of our neighbors,

Veteran wives who know this territory well.


The perils you must face, Sam!

I know the stories from the sea,

But will not let my mind around this.

Tenaciously, I will day by day

Shelter and minister our children,

Nurture to my fullest

And in our home create a safe haven.


We, the fishermen’s wives

Are too, exposed to the elements,

To the uncertainty of our fate,

Tidal dreams,

Menacing emotions that

Shake the midnight hours.


But do not fear for us.

The fervor of our soul,

The backbone of our love

Will pull us through.


I will cast a net out to you Sam,

To capture your spirit.

I will tarry in your blessings,

The lessons you have taught us.

I will create a safe harbor,

Brace my legs

And face the wind.



Listening in Gloucester

by Wayne Soini


The wives ashore

Listen for the passing breezes.

And they watch the clouds,

And note thaws and freezes.


Some carelessly call this waiting

But it is not waiting at all.

People wait in dentists’ offices

And in lines at the mall.


In Gloucester by the sea

Time is not so killed

But is respected as it passes,

Never empty, instead filled.


They light candles in church

And at home they pray,

They go to Mass

Most every day.


They put up food ahead

And scrub the children clean.

They visit the folks and

Do errands in between.


Some have jobs for which they are paid

But this is not their biggest task –

What draws on all their strengths,

Night and day you need not ask!


Fishermen’s wives’ hearts beat

To know their men are in God’s care

And that is what God hears

Listening to Gloucester’s salty air.




by Nancy Legendre


Summer: husband to wife

I felt the baby move under my hand when you were asleep.

I’m safe in my sea-womb… rocked to sleep thinking of you.

Hot red disc slipped into a placid sea.  I slept with you in my thoughts.

The cod will run strong today, tomorrow; 3 days strong.  Fair skies all.

I have chosen the sea, and it chooses me.  Whose will is it?  Mine or His?

An honest day’s work is all I ask of Him.  Keep my family safe.

The sea runs calm.  The sea provides.  Daddy will be home soon.


We’ll picnic on the breakwater.  Pack sandwiches and drinks.

We’ll watch the pleasure boats in their hurry to nowhere.

Waves break upon the shore.  Turn and return back to sea…

They always return.  Their constancy is as we are.


Does our son want a baby sister?  I shall treasure a daughter, too.

Next summer we’ll dip her toes in the ocean.  I’ll teach her to fish.

What will she dream of doing?  Will she choose a life by the sea?

The constancy of the sea holds us.  It feeds and renews us.

We shall not forsake this bounteous ocean.  Give thanks!


The water holds me, gently rocking.  Clear blue sky over deep blue sea.

Diamonds flash at the surface.  Sun and sea and sky enfold.

What lovelier place to toil?  Where else should we care to be?

The sea unending in its beauty.  Sway and pull caress my soul.


Surging, swirling measured progress.

Waves recede in sweet repose.

I shall watch the tide return.

I shall never be alone.


Summer: wife to husband

Your son is thrilled about the baby.  He brings treasures to show my belly.

Remember when Jori was unknown?  I cannot imagine a day without him here.

Jori sings for our daughter.  He sings about the waves and a Daddy at sea.

Oh the fish are jumping high; jump into my Daddy’s net; bring Daddy home to me.

Light crept into our room this morning spreading warmth so early.  A hot day.

We’ll bring pail and shovel to the beach.  Watch for Daddy out at sea.  Sing to me.

The sea is smooth and soothing.  Our daughter moves in her sea as I dream of you.


We’ll picnic on the breakwater.  I’ll pack sandwiches and drinks.

We’ll spread our blanket on the rocks.  We’ll bring treasures for the baby.

The heat is here to stay.  No rain predicted.  When shall I look for you?

You always return.  You keep me strong.  May He keep you safe.


Did I tell you about my dream?  Just an ordinary day… the four of us together.

Your arm around my shoulders.  Jori spoke to his sister… too far away to hear his

words.  You said not to worry.  You said, “they’ll work it out.”   I wasn’t sure.

The weight of your arm faded.  I held the baby.  We looked out to sea.

You were not here.  Just me, Jori and the baby looking out to sea.


Where is father?  Out to sea.  Where is mother?  Here with me.

Do you sleep in bed at sea?  Do you sleep in ocean’s hold?

Who shall hold me tight in bed; who will see the day unfold?

I will hold you tight at night.  We will see the day unfold.


Ocean brings forth cool relief.

Waves recede in sweet repose.

I shall watch the tide return.

I shall stand no more alone.


Fall: husband to wife

Strong winds blow across the waves.  We’re match for 10 foot swells as these.

It’s calmer as the sun descends.  No fear for sleep, a weary rest.

Rock my cabin;  hold my soul.  A week or less, our toil complete.

The catch is low, but promise yet.  Cod ahead on Middle Ground.

Young arms help with the haul.  Young backs hold steady.

Our son is agile in the pitch.  His movement sure, effortless.

The sea provides to those who stay the course.


We’ll walk together on the shore.  Sea glass sky on cobalt sea.

Paint me an ocean picture; our boat returning with plentiful catch.

Magda says she’s helping you find the colors that you dream.

Paint our image growing old.  My arm encircles your waist.


Why do you dream you are alone?  I’m here with you still.

Swells are gaining strength.  We’ll reach our mark by midday.

Tonight we’ll bed to an early day.   Set the nets before sunrise.

Take our fill, and trust the Lord.  Sights on home by end of day.

To Magdalena say our prayers.  Mother guide us safely home.


Steady movement, ceaseless passion.  Metal sky on darkened sea.

Brush strokes strike an anguished canvas.  White lead touches carbon ground.

Wash the salt from cabin window.  Wash the sleep from weary minds.

Brace yourself against the water.  Brace your heart against the brine.


Swirling, churning angry sea.

Waves recede in sweet repose.

You shall watch the tide return.

Work at sea, the life I chose.


Winter: husband to wife

It’s the winter of my heart; autumn of an earthbound toil.

You who waited on the shore.  To whom I vowed unending love.

Shall we yet embrace?  Touch on touch undone by death.

Memory pins you to my heart.  I seek your spirit on this shore.

Alizarin crimson fills the space, void beneath a black-ice sky.

Life forgotten without you.  I’m lost at sea, and yet return.

I watch for you in emptiness, adrift on crimson waves.


Come to meet me on the beach.  Walk with me on rocky shore.

Feed my sorrow to the seabirds, broken shells upon the floor.

I pray to God your spirit knows me, holds me, warms me, lifts me up.

In the space of death departed, souls apart shall be rejoined.


Did you see the mourners at your service?  No burial at your request.

Ashes fed to greedy waves.   You’re finally with me out at sea.  Too cold.

I’d prefer to feel you waiting, standing steadily at shore.

Jori, standing, pointing.  Magna hoisted at your hip.

Where did the waiting years go?  Watch for me as I grow old.


I’m sorry if I complained.  Each of us did our work.

My work was at sea.  Yours in the home.  A traditional convention.

It met our needs.  I met yours, and you met mine.  I am in need.

Who will sing to me at night?  Who will keep your body warm?


Seething, snarling unfed sea,

Ashes to the depths of fear.

Where you waited, now I stand.

Dreams awake me, take my tears.


Spring: daughter to father

Awaken to the dawning day.  Gulls alarm all sleepers now.

Time to feel the chill of daybreak, taste the grind, see the sunrise.

Paint the sky upon the water, sun erupts to bleach the sky.

Grab my brushes, oils and easel; Papa stay with those asleep.

Promise of a beach filled morning, grab the pails, hats and jackets…

Stroller full of smile-filled children, eagerness and treasure-lured.

Coax the shyness, teach the lesson, mother’s day begun once more.


Momma’s brushes in my fingers.  Through my eyes her imagery.

Once she stood so strong and watching.  Now I paint her same blue sea.

I shall hold her brush in mine.  Move my fingers, touch her soul.

Ocean colors ever changing captured by their constancy.


In the oven, muffins warming.  On the stovetop, scrambled eggs.

After breakfast, gather beach things; travel down the Boulevard.

Fill the pail with pirate’s booty, storm the tide pools ’round the barge.

Troll the beach in search of sea things, bring me jewels of untold worth.

In the searching is the treasure, in their joy we find reward.


Do you think that she can see us?  Does she know my children’s names?

Does she pray for Magdalena?  Hold us strong, keep us safe?

Momma we recall your standing by the silvered water’s edge.

Daddy stays with us in Gloucester, eyes reflect the self-same sea.


Waves are reaching for their haven.

Back away, and quick return.

Time escapes in growing older,

Sea to sea, a life relearns.


Summer: husband to wife

Do you remember the four of us, our picnic on the breakwater?

You were pensive, spoke of dreaming, thoughts of being left alone.

I assured you I would be here, hold you, love you, never leave.

It was you who held the babies, told them stories, fed their dreams.

You who heard their yearnings, cooled their fevers, shaped their days.

I didn’t realize all that passed, more a loss in missing you.

Tides return to ebb again, washing memories with tears.


True, I loved the sea.  Loved clear skies and unseen boundaries.

Felt the cold against my skin.  Warmed by sun, rhythms pleasing.

Haul the net with able hands.  Thanks for fish, diamonds flashing.

Keep me safe and free at sea.  Catch is caught, my work rewarded.


Wife, island to my ocean, hold our children to your hip.

Magna’s girls delight in running, cross the beach to tease a wave.

Turning back to smile at Papa, standing near in eager vigil.

Fated soon to worry-worn.  Life is work and love, and loss.

I will stay here waiting, watching waves against a shifting shore.


Ocean pushing to move forward.  Memories bring us back to land.

Push against the fear, the loss.  Bringing back our detritus.

And as tides turn, so our losses.  Bringing back all love to yearn.

For one more day alive at sea, safe in ocean’s constancy.


Waves stay ever at the shore.

Sway our bodies, pull our hearts.

If not for hope, then why the toil?

If not for love, then toil is naught.



Ever the Same: Gloucester, Massachusetts

by Douglas Goldman


After the rose-orange dawn, grey cover creeps into sight.

Seas out past buoys chained to bottom begin to swell high.

On each wave-edge a crew begins to picture coming night,

the pummel over shipbow, flooding gunnels, flying deck.


Lines are taut, whining in the blow.  Each man collects

his strength, secures barrel and box…and must know

the wind in water conquers all craft…ocean indomitable!

Home is far away, impossibly far in day’s fading light.


Bread is in the oven, the kitchen warm and sweet.

Children bundled up in quilts stir and twist and wake.

Eggs are on the table.  Momma taps her worried feet.

Gusts beat on a windowpane, pellets of rain, the cold.


From the depths of dreams explorers came,

colors of the mind on the rolling main

hurled into the windswept sky.

O, shed the shackles,

old plagues and pain,

for freedom of the heart, riches, fame.

For freedom of the heart, that pounding strain,

is relentless in the soul of man,


none can imprison, none can restrain.


She paces the tiles, not touching the lines

for luck with her family, and in her life, seeking

the even plan of the floor’s array of squares

and tugs a strand of her loosely bound hair

knowing all is change, day to day…minutes

tick away and the wind howls and the rain

pelts glass at the window frame and nothing

may ever be the same, yet ever the same,

to endure.