Poetry by Steve Ewing

Steve and his brothers’ childhood adventures included jumping into the Atlantic from the concrete bunker, a relic from World War II, that still stood defiantly in the surf at South Beach a generation later.

“The Bunker Is Leaving”

When I was a boy

I swam at South Beach

We played in the waves

My brothers and me


We laid on our stomachs

All wet from the surf

The sand kept us warm

It pulled us to earth


As we grew older we swam further out

We’d surf into the hard cobbled shore

The waves would twist you and toss you about

But it was exciting

We’d swim out for more


When we were younger the bunker was bigger

A big empty box way back in the dunes

The Navy had used it back in the ’40s

For target practice for World War Two


When we grew older we would dive off it

We’d wait for the wave

We’d dive off the edge

Don’t hang around

Or the next one would toss you

Right back upon the hard cement edge


There are lots of challenges for Island children

Like swimming at South Beach

The rail at Big Bridge

The Bunker was one of those down-Island hurdles

You’d wanted to try it to see if you’d live


But as time went on the Bunker receded

The ocean, you see,

Was having its way

It’s chewing away the length of the Island

It’s inching its way

Into the Bay


The Navy came back

And blew it to pieces

Made a big mess

Then went away

Now all that’s left is out in the ocean

Way out to sea, it’s slipping away


There will be other ways Island children

Spend summer days

And shape Island lives

Nothing will ever stay here forever

We live on a sandbar

Of swift moving tides


But I hope my kids

Catch other bunkers

Dig their feet deep

Into hot Island sand

Run with the wind

And jump off the railings

Smell the salt breeze

Hold time in their hands


That’s what is so special

About Martha’s Vineyard

Why we live here

Or why we come back

Our lives are reflected

As we tap into nature

On this edge of the world

Where the sea meets the sand.

Steve wrote “Skirts” for his youngest brother, Scotty, who was killed in a car accident near the West Chop Light after leaving a party one night in 1985.


He said stay young

and kept us all a little younger.

He was youth personified

at twenty-five years old.

Always running

youngest brother

pushing harder

loved to wander.

Knowing where Scott went

week to weekend

in between his work with Jimmy

was a full time job.

Some ski resort

a party in New York

taking life to heart

and spreading out his gift

to all of us.

Quick wit

a steady jive

while flashes of a deeper insight

surfaced on the beat

he loved to dance to.

And while Scott packed it in

he really had to win

at sports in school, or pinochle,

fat, from some family dinner.

I’ve heard it was his grin

the way he looked at women

the way he loved to swim and dive

to beat the waves at South Beach

since he was a little kid.

And skip the disc

softball in O.B.

Winters under summer suns.

He loved his life, and gave his friends the best of it,

like driving poor old Magda from New York.

She passed on too,

so did Abbie Mae,

our grandma, bless her soul.

She passed away the day

A year ago.

One of Scott’s last Valentines

was to this woman who he joins in peace

and giving all he had to give on earth

he leaves us in the brightness of his love.

Let us pray:


Scott, your vehicle abandoned in the night

we pray God speed your spirit

searching for the light

into the realm of grace

and pure design.

Sent home sublime.

Your growth on earth

ended for a time.

We miss the love your body brought

warm kisses

soft embrace

your fluid run

your arms and legs

your tender laughing face.

In sweet swift years

you stamped your soul’s embrace

forever in our hearts.

We love you Scott.


Steve’s first job as a pier builder was with Grant and Carbon Marine, a new operation in Edgartown in 1970. Steve wrote this poem for Jeremias “Jerry” M. Vieira, his longtime friend and co-wharfbuilder from those days, who died June 19, 2008, at the age of seventy.


I remember Jerry best at work

Two drawknives

A peavey

And an ax

A tractor load

Of spiles

Oak Trees

From up north

We’d bark

Me a teenage

Local kid

Him a father

Fresh from San Miguel


He came with Bernadette

And the girls

Work for Manuel Santos

In the cemetery

Yard work

For rent


Bob snatched him up

For Morgan Marine

I signed on

Fresh from high school

As Grant and Carbon

Took the reins

Building docks

Setting blocks


All that stuff


Jerry didn’t drive

Didn’t drill

Didn’t use power tools

They scared him

Old world Azore man

Rather work by hand

He learned to drive

At Grant’s pit

Barking spiles

He’d drive my car

Clarence Barry’s

’54 Caddy

He was short

Behind the wheel

Floating over

Big Katama

Thank you mam’s


When he died last week

I did the math

Jerry was just thirty-two or so

Back in 1970

When we raced

To bark the most

Both of us

To prove

Who we were


So many tows

And piers

And jobs

Between us now


I’d see him as the years

Slipped by

And always

Deep within those eyes

So dark

And strong

And full

Of what it takes

To make it work


Before he died

I ran into my friend again

Bob Morgan’s funeral

Was the time

We shook

And sighed

And laughed

And said

Those wordless things

We shared


I did get to say

I had his drawknife

In the shop

Always sharp

It stays

Ready for an oak

To peel

Just like in the day.

(An online extra following a story originally published in the September-October 2008 edition of Martha's Vineyard Magazine)