The craggy-faced shrimp boat captain
keeps a pinch of chewing tobacco between
his lip and gum, wears faded blue overalls
and a ball cap. Early mornings, you’ll
find him lumbering down the road towards
an old wooden pier, carrying a cooler filled
with ice, a fishing rod slung over his beefy
shoulder. Tackle swings like a pendulum
behind his back until he reaches his favorite
bench, close to the end. He pulls a bag
of shrimp from the cooler, baits his hooks
and casts his line as far as arthritis allows—
sits there until noon, either catching fish
or not; it’s all the same to him. It’s the sun
and wind and rain he’s come for—the view
of shrimp boats headed out to sea, crews
tiny as toy soldiers. He can hear the cries
of hungry gulls, feel each vessel’s pitch
and toss, though he is captain of nothing
now, save his own soul. And what his soul
wants is to keep his body close to water—
until the moon captures him in her net and lifts
it with cool, white hands into the starry sky.
From In the Palms of Angels (Press 53).
This poem first appeared in Shoal, and won First Prize Poetry in the
2010 Carteret Writers 19th Annual Writing Contest.
Used here with the author’s permission.