I don’t know if he did or did not touch the boy.
But that boy told a brother or a father or a friend,
who told someone in a tavern, or told someone
about it while the men hauled in the nets of fish
from the Sound. Or maybe it was told to someone
on the street, a group of men talking outside
the village schoolhouse, where he was the teacher.
What was whispered about him brought everyone
to church that Sunday, where the preacher roared
his name and the pews cleared out to find him.
He was twenty-one, thought of himself as an exile.
He was boarding with the boy and his family.
The boy was a boy in that schoolroom he hated.
Not finding him in the first house, they found him
in another and dragged him from under the bed
where he had been hiding. He was led outside.
And they took the tar they used for their boats,
and they broke some pillows for their feathers,
and the biography talks about those winter months
when there was not a trace of him, until the trail
of letters, articles, stories, and poems started
up again, showing he was back in the big city.
He was done with teaching. That was one part
of himself completed, though the self would never
be final, the way his one book of poems would
never stop taking everything into itself. The look
of the streets and the buildings. The look of men
and women. The names of ferry boats and trains.
The name of the village, which was Southold.
The name of the preacher, which was Smith.about the author