“Gone are those late-night wheelhouse conversations…”

Old sea captains are disappearing, not
By death, but by more deleterious means,
They wake up one morning, and who
And what they were is gone, and in
Its place an elderly child, wandering
Boat docks, needing a task, something
Meaningful to do, but they cannot, not
Anymore. Gone are those late-night
Wheelhouse conversations that kept
Boats going like diesels running high-
Cetane fuel, men stoked on daunting
Doses of nicotine and caffeine, hard-
Sea driving all night, dusk to dawn.

“What can I do to help?” old sea captain
Asked, confronted with 2×8 board plank
Connecting dock-to-boat. Today, it was
Rising with incoming tide, unsteady
Twist, board he once negotiated with
Two long-legged strides. Now he’s
Stopped-standing, trying to fathom
This precarious perch. We helped him
Aboard, looking for simple jobs. “We
Are rewiring a panel, crimp connections.”
I gave him crimping tool, wire, handful
Of connectors. He holds them, that is
All, no more, in silent, unmoving help.

“I remember storms out on Baltimore
Canyon,” he mumbles, memories sea-
Rising, then receding into grey mist.
He keeps an old LORAN-C in his shop
Before GPS unlearned younger men,
Women how to chart and plot, gauge
Distance, speed, time, fuel consumption
Out and back, rhomb lines, compass
Rose, and anchor rodes, recongnizing
3B high-test anchor chain with quick
Glance. Now all that is lost, not just few
Memories, but all he was disappeared,
His mind pitted like rust on steel plate.

Written during heavy thunderstorms, wind and lightning on
ocean shores. Thanks for reading.

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