Park Alert

Ferries to Georges Island are suspended through Tuesday, June 25, due to waterline repairs. Ferries to Spectacle Island and Peddocks Island will operate on the regular summer season schedule.


Subscribe to the Boston Harbor Islands Newsletter to get stories along with important park updates sent right to your inbox! Click here or scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up.

Islands in Literature


By Timothy Donnelly

November 7, 2022 

At night the sea’s surface is the penetrable onyx of deep sleep.
      I enter it without fear, as if to lower the input of the eye
reduces risk, and whatever I can’t presently see
      exists only in memory, which has been calmed by the water’s

cold hypnosis, and to be here is impersonal. Only the moonlight
      interrupts this near-nothingness, the play of it on the glossy swell
like a music you can feel, or like the mapping of something happening to me
      on another level, something that can be understood so long

as it never finishes—and, when it finishes, there is nothing
      left to understand. In the distance, other lights appear now
on the far side of the harbor, and, closer, the dull-white gull-like hulls
      of a band of anchored boats rock softly, without intelligence.

Later, elsewhere, I remember it vaguely, and it feels like the most
      meaningful way to go about it, as if the value of it grew
by resisting precision, and that, in coaxing particularity to glide from it,
      the sea retained a unity unlike anything other than the sky

with which it had come to merge, but likewise it set itself outside
      the reach of grammar, whose designs on it were not kind, and yet
what I mean by “it” isn’t even the sea anymore, but an experience
      of the sea, which syllable by syllable I make the mistake of displacing.


This is drawn from “Chariot.”

Published in the print edition of the November 14, 2022, issue.

Timothy Donnelly will publish a new poetry collection, “Chariot,” next year. He teaches in the Writing Program at Columbia.

Sign Up for the Boston Harbor Islands Newsletter!