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Poem: Dismantling the Try Works

“Watch employed Heaving the Try Works
Overboard About 4 OClock PM finished &
Washed Off Decks.”

—Logbook, 12/11/1844, Charles W. Morgan

This day, we measure distance
in bricks instead of logs and knots,
begin the joyous toil
of ripping mortar from clay,
heave overboard
these chiseled dregs of hunt
and heat.

We whalemen need not chanteys
to ease the back break
of labor, but our voices swell together
as we inhale brick dust
laid in New Bedford a full-four years ago,
and our muscles ache to release
this weight for speed.

Closer to shore, iron kettles
now stored away for a later voyage,
we scrub down the deck
where the goose pen stood
swollen with water,
and afterwards,
tack toward home,
trailing the trill of terns.

From my hand
the last brick sinks,

–splunk!–

this humble token
to my wife she’ll never see,
this gift of a minute nearer
to her.

Image Credits: Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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