I was part of a machine I loved. It mothered me, raised me up from what sad self I was, bookish & theoretical and unbodied. By
dog watch. By bo’sun, by heaving line & windlass, by Roger that I learned a life. She was conservative, this mother,
in many ways. Even the corporate particulars: guest not passenger, stateroom not cabin. No tattoos back then. No
piercings other than the two small lobe-holes girls were allowed. She pretended to not notice my nose ring, my raised eyebrow. I loved
the stories she told at night, in the dark pilot house, as I watched with captain or mate for real dangers (we once ran aground) and the predicted
navigational winks telling us where we were (where?) and what to avoid. What to avoid? Whistling, bananas, women, queers. My first true love and I chuckled
then kissed in the gear locker, breast to breast. Look. I slept inside her (that mother). I slept inside her with my siblings: Frank and Nori
and Tom and Michael. Or, more exactly, we shared cabins, bunk by bunk. We slept together in the spell of what it was to choose to sleep there. Innocent then of what machine
we were a part of (marketing, marketing, carbon and trodding). And the older, cooler cousins (officers, engineers, naturalists who’d done this for decades)–I studied them.
Sometimes I, too, pulled up the long brass zipper of my boiler suit and got ready to grind metal or paint a rail with toxic stuff that would endure a while in the tough
air. Sometimes I, too, drove the Zodiac, stood with hand on tiller, left knee braced against the port pontoon. Later, they welcomed me. Let me lecture
on bears or whales or sphagnum. Sometimes I — ahh, fuck it. We were fooling ourselves, even then. Even then, in those days, we knew there was rot and wrong in this. Or we should have.