“how” as a calling

when i think about what to write, i always start off poorly:

i begin already distracted, already tossed about, already having missed an essential insight.

the main thing is to pick something quickly, then spend time working out how to write it.

it doesn’t matter what (not much anyway; most subjects later prove worthless),

but it does matter how.  hay and horses.  stubble and stones.  a world of difference.

the crucial moment is the step from hysteric wharves onto a living ship.  better do it early.

on land, anywhere can be a destination.  life spins in a million directions

and offers rewarding encounters under most rocks, around almost every corner.

not so, the sea.  out here, things fall away.  survival pares down one’s options.

the dockyards are bustling and dissociative; the ship is single-minded.

on board, the how is clearly unavoidable.  the sea divides those who know the crafts

of steering, tacking, reading the weather, navigating, charting,

from those merely worry about what to write.  two neat little bundles.

(one floats.  one swims with the fishes.)

you can see the futility of fretting over the perfect destination:

i’m not ready for something perfect, not by a long shot.  the point is just to go someplace.

let’s take tea and rice down to brisbane.  corn and coffee up the american coast, to vancouver.

hides from tangiers to istanbul, back and forth across the mediterranean until it’s familiar.

do it for profit, do it for the fun of it, but most of all, do it for the experience.

i need the sudden squalls, the unpredictable calms, the rain, the heat, the birds, the fish.

once i rub the how into my hands, i can start thinking about the whats.  maybe the whys.

maybe, one day, it will be home port with full sails and a welcome crowd,

and they haven’t changed a pip, aside from nobler and wiser,

and the old arguments have passed under the bridge, far away.

every set of arms opens wide, and the ships burn in the harbor,

and there are tears and songs and dancing and jokes,

and we walk together inland.


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