Yearning for a Livelihood More Brutal
‘One simply must marvel
at the strength and plasticity
of a skeletal system
able to feed itself
by such slow, deliberate constriction.
This is the gift of the boa alone,
a strategy honed century
‘IT’S CRITICAL TO GET THE POTS
OUT QUICKLY AND NOT CROSS
THE LINES. IF THAT HAPPENS,
WE’LL HAVE HELL TO PAY
TRYIN’ TO HAUL ‘EM IN
WHEN WE COME BACK ‘ROUND.
UP THERE, YOU CAN SEE RICKY
SLEDGIN’ AWAY AT THAT ICE.
THAT SHIT’S STUCK ON THERE
LIKE FROSTING ON A GODDAMN CAKE
THAT’S BEEN SITTIN’ IN THE FREEZER.
HEY, RICK?! RICK — ‘
“Dammit, Jim, you ever want
somethin’ like that for yourself?”
He ventured to his friend,
carefully setting the remote aside.
“Not sure I know exactly
what you mean, Greg. Somethin’ like what?”
“Like these crab guys, scrapin’
a livin’ on a boat off the coast
of fuckin’ Alaska. Takin’ calipers
and measurin’ each individual
crab before tossin’ it in the tank,
tryin’ to avoid the claws.
All just so some tech kid
in Frisco can impress
a chick he wants with an expensive dinner.
In many ways, it seems pointless,
but it’s gotta build character
or somethin’, right? Out there
in the blackest pitch black imaginable
gettin’ frostbit, losin’ feelin’, pilin’
callous on top’a callous. That shit
is physical, it’s elemental, primal
raw man’s work. Meantime,
there I am, sittin’ in a chair
all week to sell two policies
to buy this flatscreen for us
to watch a snake eat a bullfrog
whole while we wolf brats.”
“Yeah, I get what you’re sayin’,
at least a bit. There’s that hunger
for some sort of battle - bullets,
barbed wire, seastorms, somethin’
that maybe forces ya to learn
yourself more, or the world more,
even if you don’t get known for it.
Then again, I would bet you
ask any of those crabmen
and they’d say they’d trade
what they got for what you got.
And I gotta say - you ever heard
anything really profound come
outta one of those guy’s mouths?
It’s not like they got the inside
story on the mysteries of the universe
just from seein’ no sunlight
and dodgin’ ice boulders. The captain
ain’t some kinda modern prophet! Hell,
those guys ain’t even at the top
of the ocean professions.
You ever see a documentary
on whaling? THAT shit’s insane.
At least the crabs can’t kill ya,
but a whale sure as hell can,
probably wants to, at a point,
and that’s in addition to the sea.
All of which is just mindin’ its own,
really. What ever made us
want to try to kill a fuckin’ whale
to begin with? You’d have to be
outta your fuckin’ mind!”
“Probably luck, just like most
other things - good or bad,
I dunno. Tough to say. Think
about it, some ancient tribe
just sittin’ around and one day,
to their surprise and delight,
a dead whale washes up on the beach.
Somethin’ they probably thought
was pure god or sea spirit or somethin’
is just layin’ there for the takin’!
And once they realized it wadn’t immortal —
well, ‘Let’s see if we can hunt this sucker!’
Bein’ honest, you and I’d probably do the same.
And after a bunch of ‘em die,
with that whale throwin’ ‘em around
like they didn’t weigh more’n wet leaves,
it gets its god-status back.
Which just makes ‘em want to kill it
all the more, ‘cause they fear it.
You’re right, though - those whale
guys are mad and bad to the pits of their souls.
You ever read that book
about whales, Moby-Dick?”
“Ah, only parts. Never got more’n
a hundred pages in probably. And that was
in high school, or maybe college,
one of those pointless required classes.
That Melville guy who wrote it, though,
I remember they said he was a whaler,
he was writin’ from actual experience.
Wrote some books before that one
people really seemed to like —
adventure stuff, made a lot of money,
too, I heard. He tried to get
all philosophical and shit with Moby-Dick,
and no one liked that - basically
unreadable is what they said, I think,
and kinda hard to disagree with, for my part.
And that sunk the guy’s confidence,
guess he didn’t write much of anything
for the next twenty years. Imagine —
goin’ from bein’ some famous writer
to bein’ a nobody, barely gettin’ by.
And then once you’re dead, everyone starts
readin’ your shit again, claimin’
you’re some kinda genius!”
“Yeah, that’s one gig I wouldn’t want —
bein’ a writer. Even if you’re great,
odds are you won’t ever make
any money at it. That might be
the toughest job there is, in a way —
tryin’ to do somethin’ creative and visionary.
You could spend your whole life
workin’ on it and never see
a single shred of reward or recognition —
not many things you can say that for.
Least you get paid for the crabs.
You ever think about tryin’ somethin’ like that?”
“Nah, not really. Dabbled with guitar
a bit when I was younger, but never
really ‘got it.’ Even if I could
be a painter or poet or somethin’ —
and I probably could, when you see
some of these drip paintings, or single
colors, or two line poems, or whatever —
I wouldn’t want to. Would rather grab
somethin’ that’s got at least a paycheck
somewhat regular, and gets me outside,
workin’ with my hands,
not thinkin’ too much.”
“Everyone’s gotta work
in their own field, a field
of their own choosin’, I guess.
That’s what keeps the sun
comin’ up, it seems.”
‘THIS SUNDAY, AS THE JETS
TAKE ON THE BRUINS FOR A PLACE
IN THE STANLEY CUP FINALS…’
“Ya know, the Winnipeg Jets
used to be the Hartford Whalers.
People loved the Whalers.
Still wear the hats and shirts…”