To live a moment, a decade. Hands black as the ace of spades. The dockyard plastered in ash and fog. This visited lost place. Tall tales as long and deep as the harbor. The symmetry and the certainty measured in tides. Salt water, Death was nothing but a symptom of age. A small fortune hidden inside a boot heel. The young sailor’s worldly possessions. A boot knife, a billy bat, and a locket. A yellowed photo tucked carefully into his coat pocket, obscured by weathered faded ink. A mermaid tattooed under his rib cage for good luck. The screeching bare knuckle quarantine called home.
Amnesia, no solitude. Survival was just a rude business left up to the hand’s of fate. Hemp rope, clinging to hope, splintered wood and stale bread. A polished coin hung around your neck with leather. Eyes squinting and soaking in the sting of the sun. A bird bath, a fish hatch and stacks of wooden crates like a heaving grave yard hugging the deck of the shore. Disguised eyes. Friendship was a myth seldom told. The necessity of strong drink and fast women. The sun slumps over and fades like a worn clock.
Emptied treasures. Contraband hidden expertly. These tarnished men, polished yet grayed by sweat and every ship is a replica of 20 more laying at the bottom. Looking out small portholes like a scratched fish eye lens. All depth perception lost to nausea. A floating fever. The mind a cruel storage unit eclipsed by the moon, disappearing into the horizon. Self taught survivors. Warming their hands over a candle flame. Untamed by the disorder and the chaos of life. A permanent huddled void. Iron and rust, scarred faces and arms like tree trunks. A thumb tack put squarely onto a withered wall map. Life, death’s end paraphrased then sold over a card game. Dog eared notebooks, tattered leather-bound books. Playing cards with Naked ladies peering suggestively with bare legs and long necklines and rouge applied like a second skin.
Bad weather, stoicism squeezed into stretched cloth. Nothing regal or formal about this existence. No aristocracy or pleasantly here…Just back breaking work, then the manic childish fever of shore leave. Men spending every penny on cigarettes, scag, booze and women. Patched sails, pale Norse faces. Mended shoelaces. The purification through pain scattered across tattooed arms. Faded patches where the ink didn’t take. A lover’s name carefully but obviously covered with a banner or a ship’s anchor.
The quiet necessities of life, like frantically weaving hemp rope for sails by lamplight, like a women’s braided hair…but too long to be attached to a lady. Palms, faces and knuckles swollen and cut from scuffles. arguments over gambling debts. Each man carrying vices to remain sane. The sailor grin’s like a child with kerosene hands. The constant splash of the sea. Awkwardly walking out onto the dock, as if drunk with sea legs, and money to burn. They spend everything that they earn, then get back on board the purgatory of this life. The evidence of the staggering and sobering death toll.