By Richard Dey
We were reaching east on a sou’west breeze
toward Nantucket late one morning when
a tang, popping its rivets, pulled out of the mast,
and the mast, unstayed, fell over. Suddenly
what had been like a bird soaring was a bird
shot down. Held to the boat by fore & stern stays,
the mast lay like an ice pick jabbing the hull,
poised to stab it like a human heart.
Into the swell I jumped to take in sails.
Unhanking the jib, unshackling its tack,
I pushed it up the heaving rail, aboard.
The main, filled like a bladder, was more trouble.
I pulled its slides along their metal tracks,
the sail all the while wanting to sound
like a whale. With my father, I pulled it up
on deck. He cut the fore & port stays free.
Held by the after stay, the fallen rig
trailed astern like letters in a word misspelled.
Escorted by the Coast Guard, we motored in
to Edgartown, towing our tangled luck.
Once on a mooring, we hauled the mast on deck,
mounting it over the cabin top, stem
to stern. It was not our fault, the metal fatigue,
nor was the boat our own, but no one knew
that. In their eyes we were hapless sailors, the sloop
an eyesore not only in toney Edgartown
but in Tarpaulin, Menemsha, Newport, Block,
and Mystic as we motored back to where
the charter had begun.
as we felt, still the island waters
had suited us, father & son alone,
trying to make the best of things gone wrong
and not for the first time.
And that week’s cruise?
It seemed to want its wake recorded, logged,
as if misfortune in this fair milieu
were a match, an impetus to poetry,
disappointment equally with hope
the chambered pump of love.
Copyright © 2020 by Richard Dey.