~~~ Paradise ~~~
[Originally published in The New York Times]



Its vanished trees once pandered in whispers
to the last and greatest of all human dreams.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

1. The Captain
Damn it! there beaconed a new light
    amid foul wind and snow;
That I took for the Montauk house
    and set the course to go:
All sails full-blown, we ran aground
    that light misleading me!
And slow we foundered in the night
    As dawn were lost at sea …

2. East Hampton
Before, one band of Puritans showing Cromwell's mark succeeded in reaching Salem, from there to Long Island, and founded the village of Maidstone in 1649. That same year, John Milton joined the leadership of England's new commonwealth. Yet Milton and Cromwell had first planned to sail off with these ambitious Puritan saints, come to America, be as a "City upon a Hill" the Old World's eyes upon them but Milton was arrested with Cromwell on boarding the ship.

3. The Wreck
She melted like a lump of sugar
two hundred years after that dream.
Bound for New York with cargo from Peru
that John Milton the merchant clipper
mistook the lights and turning north
sailed onto the rocks at midnight
all hands lost at sea …
men/sails/cargo/spars/money
washed ashore East Hampton's beach
knotted together in mortal ice.
At dawn, only the ship's bell
poised on top of some drowning mast
could be noticed, like a fool
with each wave laughing at the dead.

4. The Money

When the John Milton met her end at Montauk, a canvas bag of gold coin was found on East Hampton's beach frozen in the pocket of the captain's pea coat and it was given to the wreckmaster for safekeeping till the lawful heir should lay claim to it. Soon after, a man arrived from New York, a member of the family of the late captain's widow, or so he claimed and he vanished, laughing, with all the money.


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