The Running of the Tide

The Running of the Tide

The Running of the Tide

The Running of the Tide


H EWN LOGS spliced and bolted formed a spine which rested upon bed-blocks. In turn this rested upon the gray gravel of her mother, Salem. Upon the keel, the keelson. At the bows, the stem. At the stern, the stern post. Ribs of oak sprang up and out. The unborn thing had a skeleton. Anyone could see this was to be a ship.

As the embryo grew, so also grew the gigantic womb that formed it. Guy ropes, like delicate membranes held it to land. A multiplicity of ladders bound her to her mother. Like all unborn things, she was parasitic and fed from all about her. The locust for her trunnels came from no farther than Salem Neck. Her white oak from over Danvers way. Yellow pine for her inner skin from round Ipswich. The hackmatack for her mighty knees from along North River. So she sucked the forest into herself.

At three months she had decks, steerage, forecastle, poop, quarterdeck bulwarks, cabins. Then the shipwrights' work was done.

Iron workers followed the caulkers. They set chains and pumps.

Joiners and carvers followed. There was gingerbread upon her stern, bright quick-work upon her bows, delicate paneling in her cabins. Before she was even born, she had certain pretty perfections -- as a child may have' eyebrows, lashes, fingernails.

Painters began when the joiners left. Lemon-yellow waist against blue-black topsides. Pale blue inside the bulwarks.

One day an ox cart lurched down bustling Derby Street. On it was enthroned a goddess -- the figurehead of the new ship 'Tirey Becket was building for Old Ma'am Inman.

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