“Still, when we take into consideration the Glory attached to a whaleman’s life, one perhaps ought to be happy.” —from Whale Hunt, by Nelson Cole Haley Harpooner on the Charles W. Morgan, 1849-1853 Sometimes on the cuttin stage to leviate the back break of work I let my mind wander to New Bedford, but it’s always autumn, when those leaves were sun-baked to the color of pumpkin pie, and I remember that Eve of All Hallows when I found my daughter by the fireside telling fortunes with her friends. See, they was paring apples, turnin the fruit over and over in their hands, tryin to keep the peel in one piece to learn in the future if their husbands will be rich or not. Well, I hollered at them, said they were no better’n them girls from Salem, those villagers callin folks witches, while I threw the apple peels in the fire. Now I stand here in the hot sun over beggar sharks as we strip blubber from this whale, rotate the beast until peeled clean in one long piece, longin to smell those burning apple peels instead, and I don’t need no crystal ball or a clear sea to foretell that those girls’ll marry whalers, every last one of ‘em, and there’s no use in none of us wishin on wealth from a paltry lay of whale oil.
Joanie DiMartino has work published in many literary journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Alimentum, Calyx, and Circe’s Lament: An Anthology of Wild Women. She is a past winner of the Betty Gabehart Award for Poetry. DiMartino is the author of two collections of poetry, Licking the Spoon and Strange Girls, and is completing her third manuscript, “Wood to Skin,” about the 19th-century whaling industry, for which she was a 38th Voyager on the Charles W. Morgan. Joanie also is a historian and museum professional; she currently serves as the curator and site superintendent of the Prudence Crandall Museum, a National Historic Landmark. Her poetry often addresses historical topics. Visit her website at www.joaniedimartino.com.