Montauk’s Unexpected Poet/Playwright


Among the surf tribes that set up at Ditch Plains beach is the Intonato family, Montauk residents, and regulars for many years.

Ben is head of the family’s fresh tuna and swordfish business, importing daily from 20 countries. Ben’s teaming with Rocco, his 10-year-old special needs son, is a surfing fixture at Ditch. His yoga guru wife Sara and playful 8-year-old daughter Rae add to the Ditch Plains scene.

This year, because of the coronavirus, Ben’s father Don and mother Meri have been sheltering in place up island, far from the beach. Most of the Ditch Plains community know Don as the man with the broadbrim hat who carves driftwood on the bench.

In May, to connect his father with Ditch Plains during his absence, Ben started posting Don’s poems on a board at the entrance to the beach, offering copies in a basket. No one at Ditch Plains knew that Don Intonato, in addition to being the founder of Great Oceans LLC, the family fishing business, has been a poet and a playwright for over fifty years. In the seventies, he excelled in the doctoral program in poetry under the mentorship of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louis Simpson. His plays include “The Monkey King,” starring his son Ben, “The Honey Do,” “Johnny Boy and the Egyptian Museum” and “Blind Venus.” Don and Meri have two other married children, Kyna Barr and Bud Intonato, and a total of five grandchildren.

Over the months of May, June, and July, interest in Intonato’s Montauk poems has grown. On weekends you will find Ben at his Ditch Plains poetry station, distributing hundreds of copies of his father’s new poems to a growing group of followers reading them on the beach.

Please enjoy the following three choices.


On the ocean.

Tears fall
To the bottom of the sea.

Tears fall
Through me.

Without you
I cannot be.

I cannot be.
I cannot be.


Love is a small box
With a bird inside
Blinking one eye
In the belly of a lion
Hidden in the reeds
By a river crossing
Waiting for an elephant
To wander from the herd


There is a blue
that is and is not there.
The blue in the corner of a square.

Blue lilacs hiding
behind a whitewashed wall.

Blue sky waiting
for summer clouds to pass.

Driving east before first light,
reports of a storm on the radio,
straight down the narrows of Napeague.
Blue ocean on the other side of the dunes.
Blue ocean on the other side of the fog.

No cars on main street.
Fluorescent flickering in the 7-Eleven.
IGA emptied and blocked.
The rows of sleepy shops.
The room at the top of the stairs.

In this town at land’s end,
No one leaves. Everyone stays.
Everyone rides it out,
though they know one day
they will be swept away.

I pull on my raincoat
and run up to the rooftop
to watch the storm
rolling into Montauk.

Gripping the rail,
the thunderhead hits.

And I have not the slightest doubt
that something very blue is coming,
something blue is there.