Beside the Merrimack, in white,
cocooned from winds they hope to ride,
the huddled boats are sleeping tight,
marooned on stilts above the tide.

Above the streets—Federal, State,
Pleasant and High—four steeples stand,
on guard over the city's fate,
in which they mean to have a hand.

Now autumn's copper days are gone;
the maples and the oaks are bare.
Their branches shiver and put on
the thinnest coat of birdless air.

Squirrel and mouse, each tends his town:
so much to scamper for, to hoard,
to drag high up or wrestle down
for warmth in winter, bed and board.

And on their lawns, now brown and sere,
neighbors look up at clouds that pass,
and then retreat indoors to peer
and mime hellos through double glass.

The river, though, goes where it will.
In every season, swift or slow,
it skirts the shade of silent mills,
mirrors old bridges from below,

lapping, at last, the city's docks
where seagulls cry above the bay,
and ripples back from harbor rocks,
as if to go, as if to stay.