A Traditional Hymn

This Is My Journal. May I Never Finish.

May 14th
We don't have a regular sailboat, with lobster traps or tuna nets full of sea sirens, we got a autopsy ship. I hate to tell you, but we don't throw our dead overboard like laurel tea-bags anymore. First, it's not sanitary at all, even for animals who you wouldn't think would care too much about being clean, but I guess that's why we gotta care for them. Then, I guess it gets a little too easy to murder somebody way out there, just put on your Chaplain's cap and throw the bugger overboard with a prayer (that is if you're the praying type of murderer). Now, when somebody dies on the sea, they put a call out and it bounces from ship to ship until the nearest available Autopsy ship comes a-runnin'. They call us the SeaPony Express and Captain says he hopes they don't make a telegraph for corpses. I don't always get the Captain's jokes, but I always laugh.

May 22nd
"Meaning, in that state, is fluid. Not just metaphor, but scientifically. 'Cause this meaning comes in a case of claret, and like other types of meaning, it requires special chemicals to clean it off the walls." I invented that sentence by myself, and Captain wrote it down on a sheet of paper like a famous quote and nailed it up. I don't always know what I've said, I think, but sometimes I like the way it sounds too and I write it down. That's sort of what I'm doing right now, but I'm not writing down my best thoughts, just the ones that keep me company.

May 29th
We've got the first one of the season, a boy with a half-grown beard off a schooner in the Bering Sea. I've got to wait until the Captain's finished the procedure to know the whole story, but he was climbing the rigging when one of lines started to jerk. As she snapped, the boy grabbed at her and twisted the line sideways, lassooing himself into a slipknot while the line flung itself around the yard and started to spin tight. One of the loops held the main cord tight near the mizzenmast and the boy sat face-first awkward at the low point of the loop, delicately balanced between the forces of gravity and a centripetal rope burn. Friction smoke from the line started to pour out of him until he was burning up in a his own misty pink cloud, the rope holding his weight snapped and that knot let him slide slowly to the deck. occasionally jerking him when the line would catch on one of them harder bones near the middle of your head, one of the spines maybe, and he'd fling about. Those lines are pretty long, half of them mostly just tie the rickety old bastards together, so it was a thirty seconds before it gently set him on the deck with a deep crevasse dug right down his middle. As they told it it, he stood there for a moment like in a movie somewhere, everyone silent, until he sort of popped in half and spread himself across the deck. I don't think I believe all that, but it's real interesting thinking about it.

May 29th
These reports are a rough thing to write, Captain says, because you have to look the dead man in the face while you handle the organs he has no more evident purpose of. Captain tries to smooth things out by thinking of jokes to put in the report, plank humor for the boys on the other boats. Really, we're the type of guys who need it to have a little joke in there just to remember how serious the thing is, a note of levity to remind us that life isn't all popped organs akimbo, it’s sad when some kid gets hisself gutted by a failed rigging line, burnt twine embedded from his ears to his asshole.

Deconstructed...partially, anyway, that's the word Captain used in his report and how I know it was a rigging line in particular. Deconstructed. That's Captain's favorite word for these things, always gets him talking about them eye puzzles, the ones you gotta look at just right to see the illusion. He says they trained a generation to break down their world, to know when the meaning jumps out at you after you've been staring at a problem too long. I never got the hang of them eye puzzles, I just worried somehow they'd rigged the whole world like that and everywhere were sailboats I couldn't find. Now I work on one, so I don't feel so badly about it, but I think about it when Captain starts talking about them puzzles and I can’t help but notice that the waves have gone awry.

May 29th
Late Night-Time
Actually, I don't like it that we finish the procedures here. Sometimes we're the last ones to see these boys and I like to keep going until I get told to leave him alone. I think if I ever died out here, I'd want to sit on our table forever, I already told the Captain I wouldn’t mind the whole affair if it lasted an eternity. He says that's not how it works, that if you think of the human body like a universe, halving down and down, you just get past the point of meaning and end up in spaghetti soup. I don't like calling the dead soup, and the captain knows that so when he sees me with one of my looks on my face he apologizes and tells me it's just that he's been on the job too long and he forgets to care sometimes. I got mad this time though, and I yelled at him, calling him all sort of sailor words I never used before. I also told him that I think his jokes aren't really to remind him, but because he hates them who sit on his table and that I'd sock his goddamn face if he said one more word to me. His eyes turned to slate and we didn't talk for a while until I was writing this down and I had a thought which I shared with him and because you made me think it, I guess I should share with you. I thought, "I'm never going to work on this damn ship long enough to hate the table-folk." He smiled and asked me why I called them table-folk and I said that I never met any of the table-folk anywhere else. This time I think it was the Captain who didn't get what I said and laughed anyway. I wasn't trying to be funny, but I didn't want to fight anymore and I laughed too.

May 30th
Early Morning
The Captain says we're to go above decks and drink until the sun shines off our backs and we hear those old mermaid songs. Goodnight. I Love You.

1 comment:

Anna Nym said...

I'm not sure if I like this title better than Handsome, but it certainly fits.