For this poem, Kelsey's "Running Tide."
For this poem, Kelsey’s “Running Tide.”

Maine-island girl, Kelsey, drove her lobster
Boat, Running Tide, out of Stonington, white
Top over bright-red hull, working traps off
Spruce And Buckle Islands. On Sundays she
Attended Church, worked on diesel engines,
Swapped out trap-lines as lobsters moved into
Shallow water, closer to rocky island shores.

A woman of two worlds, Kelsey’s was spiritual
And of ocean waves and breezes. She wore
Mossy Oak cap, faded, knee-torn jeans, water-
Man boots and gloves, strong arms and back,
Small-chested and slim-hipped, she hauled
Nearly as many traps as male boat owners,
Who listened for each other on marine radios.

In fog and icy pitching seas, Kelsey drove her
Lobster boat, knew island charts and followed
Buoys and radar, innate sense of sea bearing,
Her internal compass rose. Yet, she always
Said a prayer going out and coming back,
Protection from thrashing winds, her rosary
To Mother Mary kept safely in her backpack.

Kelsey learned from older lobstermen, those
Who had retired, advice given dockside or at
Dinner tables. “Know how other people fish,
Before you set your traps.” From Stonington
To Isle au Haut, everyone knew each other, sons
And daughters, their boats and motors, voices
On the radio, where they ran their traps.

When Kelsey went out, an older man was oft on
Board, standing near the wheel, he did not say
Or do much, directing where to drop her baited
Traps, float and coil of line on top, along island
Shelves of rock, they sank in 20 fathom of chop,
Routine measuring lobsters, checking females
For eggs, tails previously V-notched.

Once their day was done, Kelsey eased along flat
Rocks at Camp Island, where her friend, with pipe
In hand, clambered up the rocks, he waved to her
Goodbye, his countenance aglow in dusky evening
Light. Few days later, one of Kelsey’s friends asked
Her about her waving at rocks and trees so close
To Camp Island when no one else was there.

“His name is Bill Emerson,” said Kelsey. “I met him
One quiet Sunday morning outside church. He said
That he and his step-son were sailing to Boston
With a load of stone.” Kelsey explained how they
Met, sometimes on their pier, occasionally at her
Skiff. As they left harbor, he provided ageless sea-
Man’s guidance from Stonington to Isle au Haut.

Her friend offered his smart phone, saying,
“You’ll want to see this.” Captain William C.
Emerson and his step-son were lost at sea in
1881. They carried granite from Stonington to
Boston, stone cut from Crotch Island quarries,
Few sea miles from shore, days of drilling and
Blasting, old crane and railway exist today.

That was last Kelsey saw or heard Captain Bill
Emerson, she had been lobstering with a ghost,
Though for months he taught her where and
How to trap, islands safe or dangerous, what
Undersea rocks to avoid, for Captain Emerson
Lost this life when his stone-heavy steamer
Capsized in swift currents off Isle au Haut.

Click link for more on Captain William C. Emerson and scroll down.

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