lobster-boatsBoats wave-rising in morning light, working
Before dawn, Kelley had become a lobsterman,*
Youthful energy and island understanding in
Her favour, she learned from closest friends,
Other lobstermen who recognized her potential,
Ready at her boat, waiting for her sternman,
Rarely the other way around.

Lobstermen weren’t the only pre-dawn risers
On islands or in Stonington, local groceries
Opened before light, wives fixed hurried
Breakfasts, life centered on boats leaving and
Returning, hauling several hundred traps,
Cleaning floats, measuring lobsters, banding
Claws, lobsters in circulating seawater tanks.

Thus was their routine, hauling traps from
Morning light to dusk, taking time for lunch,
Learning and asking questions to rise and fall
Of waves, passing spruce-treed islands. Ruddy
Hands clearing traps, her sternman offered
Sound advice, “Kelley, you have technical
Know-how, waterman’s skills take time.”

Laying traps, snagging floats, bringing Hanna
Lee
in easy, reversing engines, turning into
Waves, wind pushing boat to leeward, working
Close to island rocky ledges, skills Kelley
Needed. Driving her thirty-foot lobster boat
In open water, along deep channels, Kelley
Proved a capable Isle au Haut boat driver.

Maine lobstermen have navigation “rules of
The road” much like the U. S. Coast Guard,
Respecting island fishing waters, their traps,
Their floats, and gear, learning from grey-
Haired “old timers,” wisdom of weathered
Faces, sea-dark discerning eyes, Kelley’s
Guiding mentors, men whom she could trust.

Her sternman standing silent, Kelley brought
Hanna Lee up to dock, feathering throttle speed,
Quick use of forward and reverse, squeaking
Squeeze of fender buoys, the wooden lobster-
Boat came to rest adaptly at the dock, hard pull
On stern-lines, few wraps on steel cleats, Kelley
Tied her boat in with expertise and style.

On that day, Kelly became a Maine lobsterman,
The term not politically correct; however, with
Yellow bib-overalls and a camouflage baseball
Cap, her hair a mass of windblown curls, sun-
Light in her face, Kelley stood shoulder-to-
Shoulder with her male companions, any one
Of them working as sternman on Hanna Lee.

You’ll find Hanna Lee tied up at her mooring,
At Kimball Island thoroughfare of the Ilse au
Haut. Kelley will oft be seen repairing and
Preparing traps for the next trip. New vents,
Biodegradable doors. So say “Hello” to an
Island woman who returned to home, taking
Lobsters on waters where she was born.

*For those concerned about the term “lobsterman” referring to women,
the issue is discussed in this NPR article “She’s No Man; She’s a Lobsterman.

One of my last poems whilst in Maine, I spent much time
talking with skippers and lobstermen, men and women, who
knew and worked waters between Stonington, Isle au Haut,
Bass Harbor, Swan’s Island and Frenchboro.  Yes, there is a
real-life “Kelley” ready to navigate and work these waters
on her own. I was on board when she maneuvered her boat
to dock, my poetic inspiration.

 

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