the shipfitter's wife

I loved him most
when he came home from work,
his fingers still curled from fitting pipe,
his denim shirt ringed with sweat
and smelling of salt, the drying weeds
of the ocean.  I would go to him where he sat
on the edge of the bed, his forehead
anointed with grease, his cracked hands
jammed between his thighs, and unlace
the steel-toed boots, stroke his ankles,
his calves, the pads and bones of his feet.
Then I'd open his clothes and take
the whole day inside me -- the ship's
gray sides, the miles of copper pipe,
the voice of the foreman clanging
off the hull's silver ribs, spark of lead
kissing metal, the clamp, the winch,
the white fire of the torch, the whistle
and the long drive home.

~ Dorianne Laux



J Cosmo Newbery said...

Aw...that's lovely.

Lee said...

That kinda says it all!

Inspector Clouseau said...

What a great sounding profession: shipfitter.

soubriquet said...

Clouseau, I thought for a moment that you said Shoplifter....

soubriquet said...

I love the poem, Dorianne Laux, well, I love her name too, decorative yet unctuous, Dorianne has insight, she wields her words as the shipfitter might wield his tools, bringing out the grain of the wood, slowly polishing the patina of brass, tightening a through-hull fastening just so, until the red sealant paste oozes, evenly around the flange, until metal kisses, snugs together, feeling the fit through the wrench, stopping when it's right, not overtightening where threads might be strained, stop on adequate plus a quarter-turn.

I look at the vessel in the picture.

She's one of the 1930s America's Cup racers. This yacht, Harold Vanderbilt "Rainbow", raced against my grandfather's friend Sir Tommy Sopwith's "Endeavour", and won.

soubriquet said...

Here I am again...

Rainbow was built in 1934, specifically to fight Tommy Sopwith for the Americas cup. Sadly, her designer, William-Starling Burgess, though an enduring expert when it came to the shape of the hull , was not so expert in metallurgy. He designed Rainbow with steel frames, and bronze plating beneath the water-line.
And that's a perfect recipe for rampant electrolytic corrosion. As a result, Rainbow's career was spectacular, and extremely short, she was sold for scrap and broken up in 1940, only six years old.
The good news is that a new rainbow, built in Holland to the original lines, but with an aluminium hull and carbon-fibre mast has taken to the water. If you have a vast surplus of wealth, (about $21 million should do it), and would like to own a frighteningly fast, luxurious, state-of-the-art retro-yacht, go here:


This is, of course, a digression. Dorianne's poem is about the people, the empathic bond of love, the ship is metaphorical and incidental. I shall tuck fresh cedar-wood shavings into my shirt, and linseed oil will scent my clothes, to ensure a similar reception. XXX

bulletholes said...

Souy, i started to save that image of the ship from a site a few days ago. i have a couple things I collect: Rhinos, Tapestry's and Ships.
I wondered about that ship, and wthe story that might be behind it, and how they managed to fill those sails so completely.
So...thanks... the poem is OK too.

soubriquet said...

First, I have very much egg on face, due to a colossal error....
Although my googling seemed to point me at Rainbow, the boat in the picture has one too many masts, it's a gaff-rigged schooner, and although Rainbow was, according to sources, gaff rigged, the replica isn't, and....there's only one mast and the bow's less curved.

So, the boat's not Rainbow, and all my earlier stuff was irrelevant. Stupid me.

Current thinking says the picture could be William Fife III's schooner, 'Susanne', built 1907, sailing off Fife, Scotland, and photographed by Frank William Beken. Or it could be the Ingomar, built by Herrenhoff, same boatyard as Rainbow

My excuse is that pictures of Susanne are mislabelled as Rainbow all over the place, whereas, a simple reading, as I did after posting my earlier comment shows Rainbow as having a singe 140" mast, not two.

Ah, Mr Bulletholes.
The sails, the sails...

I wondered about them too.

bulletholes said...

damn, Souby, you know your ships!
Here is one of my ships. Be sure to follow the link in the post for a much better image.