By Eric Greinke

Originally published in Main Street Rag


As a young sailor I learned
to handle the lines. I’d stand
on the slippery bow to toss
the bowline to the dockhand, balanced
against the backwash
of the engine & the wave action,
hoping that the catcher on the dock
could grab the line from mid-air.

Later, in the Coast Guard, I trained
in the use of the line-throwing
gun, a 12 gauge shotgun
that shot a steel rod
over the bow of a drifting boat
with a small line threaded
through the heavy rod-head, a difficult
task in rough water.

If your aim was off, the rod
could hit, maybe even kill
the very stranded boater whom
you were trying to save. You had to
arc it just right, so that it fell
across the bow, so the boater
could retrieve the line & connect
it to his bow, so you could rescue him

But sometimes lifelines break.
Nylon tow-lines stretch way out.
We stand behind a cyclone fence, in case
the rope might snap. The sudden recoil
could kill a man or knock
him overboard, to tread water
until someone bobbing nearby
can throw him a line.

On turbid days, afloat on
dark, forbidding waves, we need
strong lines, to lash us
to something solid on shore,
a post or a pier that might stand
against the wildly surging swells.
In dreams of flight above rough seas,
I search for you, to throw you these lines.


Eric Greinke has two new Presa Press books scheduled for 2016, Poets In Review (a collection of forty-six reviews written from 1972 to the present) and Zen Duende – Collaborative Poems with Glenna Luschei. Recent work has appeared in the Aurorean, Delaware Poetry Review, Forge, Gargoyle, Home Planet News, Ibbetson Street, Main St. Rag, Poem, The Pedestal, So It Goes, Solo Novo and as a fine art broadside by Adastra Press. His poetry has found a large international audience.

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