Crossing the Bar Crossing the bar again In the slosh and tumble of waves, around ledges, at the favored lobster spots close to shore, the white working boat maneuvers about rocks, gear shift growling, runs down on pots, the men scooping them up, hauling traps aboard, pulling the writhing bugs out, checking length sometimes tossing most of them back in thinking it's time to shift the pots further offshore. It seems the hold is never quite full, when they turn the helm to home. It’s not all work, for there is a time for awe and wonder in going to and fro, in foggy uncertainty, or clear air when the horizon is crisp and stark, or when clouds boil, flowering in blue sky, or when the black of a coming storm menaces, or in the calm of sunrise, waters flat as can be, never the same from day to day, but same never-the-less. You’re on your own out there. They do not visit this place as the yachtsmen do, to pleasure the day, they live this world, all of it, its peace and hell alike. Then back home again and out on the town into dazzling lights, dark bars, a drink having fun with women punk rock songs and randy jokes. Saint Joseph certainly must be there, with faith’s wafer and wine certainty and protection warding off threat of wave and rock in the heave and thrust of swells uneven footing, a dangerous winch cable screaming on its spool. There is a muscle taut energy in this small 35 foot lobster boat heir to the fast Grand Bank fishing schooners, proud large trawlers, the great hauls. These rock crawling scavengers are all that’s left to harvest now, bend the muscles to. It’s traps now, was nets then, always the haul, the heft of the prey on the deck in the heave and rolling wave of the sea The big thing to think about what many of us do not is who and where we are in this world. So few know, but those whose working rhythm is embedded in it, do. A Saint Joseph medallion dangles from the rear view mirror of their pickup loaded with traps and pots and its ‘screw you’ bumper stickers. But when some ignorant asshole on autopilot with cutters on his flashy yachts’ prop tears through a line of pots all the days moneys gone What’s Saint Joseph to do then you have to keep asking.' Oh, they’re not paying what they used to, 3 buck a pound, not worth it sometimes when they’re 10 bucks afterward. Everyday, passing by the Dog Bar, offloading the stuff, tired, returning to the slip, tie up, disembark and, bone hope weary, might take to drink again. In the coherence of this life, (the faith and ceremonies, a cardinal’s blessing once a year doesn’t do much) no matter how small it seems faith punctuates the daily chores but it’s the rhythm of the lobsterman’s life out and back again, bait and reap that sustains as it does for all working men, the doing of it.
Kent Bowker started with poetry at Berkeley in the Fifties, then became a physicist working mainly in optics. His new book of poems is Katharsis: Sifting Through a Mormon Past. He lives in Essex, next to the Great Marshes and is treasurer of the Charles Olson Society.