The Amazing Reg, Bryan Merck

The Amazing Reg

 

He sailed his boat across the Atlantic.
A ton of lead in the keel guaranteed
it would right itself if capsized. A strange oval-shaped mast
caught a little wind if the sails tore.

There was some kind of dark earnestness in him
I never understood. It was like he hailed from another planet
or something and this was             defining knowledge
only he possessed, understood.

He knew the secrets of the ocean,     he was
a husbandman of wind, waves,

currents, seas, a prophet
of ocean eschatology, an adept
of deep water esoterica.

We would drive over to New South beach
and sit around evenings on his boat and down
a few beers    mornings we would sail east
                                                          out
to where we lost land.
A maritime compass on a short post by the tiller
would bring us in again.

Nights on his boat,
he would rise from deep sleep and
brood in the hatchway, anticipating the inevitable storm, anticipating
stealing passage from the wind.

There was a barrier

no one could get past. I visited his boat
with his oldest son by his first wife
                              on Sheep’s Head Island.

We drove for hours across Kentucky so we
could retrieve a key
                              or some such

at Reg’s beck and call.
                     He controlled others lives from afar
first wife second wife children by both

comfortably, with a few Black Labels.

He told me about his sailing through
a hurricane off the coast of Spain. The boat
began to fill with water from waves
higher than the mast. He tied a rope around his waist
and went out to the tiller. He said he thought
this was his end, his time.

It wasn’t.

I once told his youngest daughter
by his second wife that I loved her. She said

No you don’t.”

________________
Bryan Merck

 

Review by Laurinda Lind

This poem rambles up and down thoughtwaves the way the sailor who is its subject careers around in boats. It seems like a combination character sketch/ memoir until the last two stanzas, where an abrupt shift yanks this poem about by the bow to point it into a completely different and wonderful wind. I love this ending.

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