May 21, 2018
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Thief Jones

By Robert P. Tristram Coffin, Special to the BDN

The people living round the place
Called him Thief Jones to his face,
Thief was like a Christian name,
It had lost the smut of shame.
Thief’s house was black and let in weather,
The ridgepole hardly held together,
The doorway stood at a lee-lurch.
Men often opened it to search
Among the litter of net-corks there
For a lobster-buoy or pair
Of missing pants whose seat was sewn
With patches they could prove their own.
It got so, when a man lost track
Of anything he took a tack
Down Thief’s way and had a look.
The folks at Mundy’s Landing took
Thief as they took foggy weather;
They’d learned to get on well together.

Thief never said a word if he
Happened to be in. He’d be
Glad to see the man and might
Help him straighten things out right –
“This rudder’s yours, this anchor’s mine.”
He might invite the man to dine
On the hasty-pudding cooking
On his stove, after the looking.
Men liked to talk with Thief, he knew
Stories yellow, pink, and blue.
But though they liked to hear him lie,
They never halved a blueberry pie
From his cookstove’s warming-shelf,
Thief ate his victuals by himself.

Robert P. Tristram Coffin (1892-1955) was born in Brunswick and attended and later taught at Bowdoin College. His collection “Strange Holiness” won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1936. This poem is used with the generous permission of the estate of R.P.T. Coffin.


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