alfie lee writing



The frisky, lolling, lapping
dance beguiling the curdled
jelly cushion of my 
knees. The sea pumps merciless

pitching for her rightful
tribute from the keel.
You steady me, grandfather,
with your hands hard tack

and lead me below deck
past the dark, furious
fisting of the double-
quick pistons pounding

and punching through the pull
of the ocean's suck. You shut
your door. Your steel quarters
hold the engine's driving out. Rows

of tinned food, labelless, naked, shiny,
stand at-a-ready on the shelf.
Your spartan bunk, worn wood, mat
rolled up, bare bulb

pendulum. When i see
in a corner the empty
shell, carapace. "I picked
that up in some port-of-call,

penny stall, stumbling
drunk," you divulged. "But in
the days before refrigeration,
turtles played a vital

role. Picked off nesting
beaches, hauled and held in holds
by the thousands, tens,
hundreds of, in hell,

on whaling vessels so numerous they
choked the high seas, prowling bow
to bloody bow,
fulfilling man's quest

for candle wax and light,
in the name of progress, industry
and a better life. To illuminate the dark."
I see the slow, poor, dumb reptiles,

teary-eyed, trapped in the shells
of themselves. Know that not
knowing was just as well. "They
could live for months, half a year,

more, with no food, no water. This,
the good lord, our maker's long enduring
gift, and we made a ready, prepackaged,
meal of it."


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