Edgartown poet laureate read the following poem at the Edgartown town meeting in honor of retiring town moderator Philip J. Norton Jr.

He grips the podium
like the wooden wheel
of a loaded
cargo schooner
comfortable yet firm
as he steers us through
another night
Reading the Warrant
or not
guided by the shifting weight
of our creaking
rolling ship
We sit rapt
in pews
built by old
whaling Methodists
Hanging on
he seamlessly pushes forward
towards that safe harbor
It lurks behind
the final article
A heady place
of swaying palms
another year’s

Along this annual route
all hands are welcome
to weigh in
Acknowledged from
the steady helm
a piece is said
in place
or from up front
all miked and
we can only pray
blessedly brief
The crew reacts
in kind
rejects the change of course
or pleads the case
This is the subtle test
the captain contemplates
careful to reflect
with wisdom
the request
A vote is cast
the podium adjusts
and off we sail
Some murmur is bypassed
consensus is the star
this pilot sets our
stem towards
A second night at sea
means rations stretched
frayed tensions and
who knows what’s
playing on TV
Occasionally he’ll
lash the wheel
to stride the deck
conferring with
an officer or two
where they sit in line
Charts at hand
confirm the plotted course
and inner knowledge of
strange winds
queer tides
that veer a ship
from port

There is great skill up here
a learned bearing
born of deep roots
and thorough knowledge of
this ship
this crew
this rolling sea
With no apparent rush to judge
he lays bare
the working and the ways
For from his perch he spies
each year
the changes in his
able body
Some have drifted off
never to be heard again
Some soften
while others seem to
pitch and haw
a tide against
the wind
Democracy for all
But in the end the change
is small
the general course
is stayed
and as consensus is his
guiding star
these 43 long years
he’s seen us through
all right
So tonight
I do salute
the moderator
I have known
and say to Jeff
thanks for all you’ve done
You’ve left us better
for your time
guiding our rolling
lively helm
And like you plainly said
“It was something to do”
and yes
you surely
did it well