624 White Street, Key West

The house heaves a sigh. Haunted white clapboard,

slats missing in the green shutters like witch’s teeth.

Broken white lights coil around the entry, strands

of vacant promises. Maybe she’s come to rescue me.

This disappointing pilgrimage like the manatee’s

propeller scars, permanent and deep down her back.

The locals call her Lily, curious sea cow.

Gentle, majestic, she deserves more respect.

They follow her full set of whiskers along the shore,

trace the paddle tail’s outline underwater

keeping up with her slow, steady rhythm,

until they lose interest, trading her for a Rum Runner.

A literary landmark for a mistress of loss, but no one’s here

to pay homage. No one’s lining up for a tour like

Hemingway’s house — I’d buy a ticket to see what’s inside.

Afraid to knock, no one’s coming in after me,

if I’m swallowed by darkness inhabiting the planks.

At least the U.S. Post Office got it right,

put her mug on a Forever stamp where it belongs

in the line-up of most revered 20th century poets.

LISA WILEY will read from her work at the Empire State College Reading Series at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the college’s Appletree Business Park campus, 2875 Union Road, Cheektowaga. She is an English instructor at Erie Community College, North campus. Her chapbook of villanelles, “Chamber Music,” is due out early next year from Finishing Line Press. Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) was a prominent American poet of the 1940s through the 1970s.