Lonesome George

(by hardtack) Jun 24 2012

Lonesome George, the last la Pinta tortoise, died earlier today. As the last of his species, he became a symbol of the precariousness of the Galapagos ecosystems. I had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands and Lonesome George more than a decade ago.

A page from my Galapagos Scrapbook, featuring at least one picture of Lonesome George (the pictures on the left may be other tortoises at the Darwin Research Station). Also note my terrible poetry.

While I am fully aware that my high school poetry was, and still is, terrible, I make no apologies for it:

Lonesome George (2001)

a lone tortoise emerged from his rock-hard shell,
after the foul reivers had left his shore,
he opened his slumped eyes to a visceral hell,
he could not prepare for what was in store,
his brethern are gone, taken into the galleys,
each found her fate in the state of rich food,
kidnapped by the cannibal, buccaneer limeys,
kept captive in prisons so very crude,
he is the last one left of his saddleback kin,
alone but not forgotten in this land,
and put now in a foreign place for protection,
free of all tyrannies of human hand,
in dark solitude he is slowly growing old,
and when Lonesome George passes, so passes the World.

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Today I am ashamed

(by hardtack) May 09 2012

Yesterday, an upsettingly large proportion of my fellow North Carolina citizens voted to amend the constitution of our state to forbid a subset of loving, consenting adults from enjoying the legal benefits of marriage. Today, I am ashamed.

As a human being that loves my friends, my family, and my fiance, I am ashamed that other members of my species are incapable of recognizing that same love in others, just because it is superficially different from their own.

As an American who believes in the founding principles of a country that was built on ideas, not historical divisions, I am ashamed that my fellow citizens would choose to codify into our state's constitution laws that would deny the basic freedoms that are the birthright of all Americans--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As a resident of my adopted state of North Carolina, a state that, over the last 10 years has become my home, I am ashamed that a state I found so welcoming could be so unwelcoming to others.

As a libertarian who believes that expanding the influence of government into the personal lives of its citizens is rarely a solution, I am ashamed that we would choose to codify an amendment which does nothing but oppress one group of Americans and allows the state to decide what is and is not a family--as if there were ever a reason to give the state control over our private lives.

As a speaker of the English language, I am ashamed that our lawmakers would write such a poorly-worded, imprecise piece of legislation which at best is illegal and indefensible and at worse, will strip citizens of domestic protections.

I am saddened by those whose faith is so trivial that they think "sanctity" equates with "government bureaucracy".

I am saddened for my friends and colleagues who had to watch the deeply misguided debate whether American citizens deserved the same rights as American citizens.

I am saddened by the number of people who think there is only one way to be a family.

But I am also heartened by the response from friends, colleagues, and strangers, who share in my disappointment, my sadness. North Carolina is greater than the worst of us.

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shift. a short story from eno. magazine

(by hardtack) May 03 2012

The old winch groaned under the strain of a full net. Captain Willis sighed. A heavy haul was a bad sign.

“Well, that’s the last cast this season, probably the last I’ll ever do.” He had said the same thing the year before.

The net cleared the ship’s deck. It bulged with the unmistakable quiver of a thousand tire-sized jellies, each one a tiny ecosystem. We dumped them into the shaker tray that violently separated the worthless goo from the precious catch.

I grabbed a few jellies to measure before tossing them over the side. They were smaller this year, a good sign. Something was eating them.

I turned back to the shaker. The captain was smiling. At the bottom of the catch bin were eight hollow-eyed shrimp, the largest haul we’d had all week. At current market price, they would cover the repairs to the winch, with a little left over for fuel. We counted sixty-seven hollow-eyes in the Miss Amy’s hold. It had been a very good week.

Interested? Check out the rest of this story in eno.

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somewhere in this maelstrom, a poem for #IamScience

(by hardtack) Feb 03 2012

the island

In those hours before sunrise,
while the water is still new, my father
and I walk down to the pilings

to dip our lines in the murky Severn.
We would bait our hooks with grass shrimp
from the corner store, or dangle old meat

from a string, to lure out the crabs,
who would scuttle across that weathered dock,
then vanish between missing planks.

My family noticed how poor
my catch was, how few fish would take the shrimp,
but they never noticed the hooks,

unbaited, lying by the tackle box,
a lead weight hanging from my line.

The sodium twilight of the city,
so far from my mud-soaked river,
did not leave shells for hermit crabs to tend.

I built my burrow in bottles
Of sand and pressed seaweed, finding wildness
Wherever wilderness survived.

In small fragments of forest pushing out
through the concrete, winding trails where
old copper mines once stood, broken

railway bridges, long abandoned, birdsongs
that cut through the light rail’s rumble.
The tide would rise and fall on these islands,

Adrift in a sea without stars.
But those islands were my anchor. It held.

the tank

They hover, motionless in the water.
Each one, a tiny, perfect, mystery,
So seemingly unfit for survival.
Weightless and delicate, syngnathidae.

Together, in their loves’ embrace,
the males bear the burden of birth.
Unspoken edicts, assumed truths,
are theirs to abide or ignore.

As they should, for a fish
that flaunts its unfishness
shamelessly, with grasping
tails and forsaken scales.

These were my tanks
to feed, to clean,
my steeds, my charge,
my damp command.

Each day,
a wave,
from shore.

the rock

And now,
I am falling.
A cord
vibrating through
the emptiness,

I am the weight
at the end of my line.

I feel it,
the tension
of a rope, going taught.
transferred from my body

to a bolt
buried among the stones.

it pops,
the last link
between myself
and the earth,

the ground
reaches up
to call me home,

as if she never
wanted me to leave.

the ship

Here is a man at sea,
        struggling to find his way
                across a gulf
                                than imagined

                                The gear rises
                and settles.
        But, as the winch tightens,
a wave catches. The stern

                                        Out and down.
              Out and down.

the corer takes him in the chest,
        throws him across the deck,
                and comes to rest
                                above crushed bones.

                                The mud is gold
                        and he
                barely perceives
        the cracked ribs, shattered spine,
a question that will never stand.

                    He lifts her, carries her
                        dulling the pain
with whiskey, willpower
      false promises
to himself.

Until, at last,
the earth again
rises up to meet him.
And, with welcoming arms,

he greets the fall,
like an old friend.

the island

She never questioned my scars,
the old twisted knots from forgotten climbs
or the fresh welts, still pallid,
yesterday’s bruises.

We scurry across the beach
sifting sand as we duck between the rocks.
Two among the multitude,
shedding our injuries,
in discarded shells.

She is so wide and deep and unyielding
that even the strongest of us must fall
to our knees before the oncoming tide
and then cling to the rocks as she recedes.

But, somewhere in this maelstrom, an island
emerges from the surf.

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(by hardtack) Jan 21 2012


approach, from the west
the falling tide
pushes the bow out,
into the channel.

a half turn left
angles the motor,

idle slowly, into position,
the narrow slip.
too far, the oysters
will take your hull.

too short, the current
will drag you back,
circle for another pass.

no, throttle up,
like tossing a dart
against the wind,
slide the bow sideways.

passed the pilings
full turn port
back down hard.

the stern falls off
and the skiff
gently glides
into her slip.

make fast the lines,
raise the motor,
and welcome home.

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Those Pens

(by hardtack) Jan 16 2012

Those Pens

I never seem to lose the crappy pens,
those cheap plastic ballpoints with flimsy caps
or the clickers that jam with pocket lint.
Those pens, the unwanted, are everywhere.
Now, the pens I like, the magnificent
pens with thick, dark ink and confident lines
that rest in that defining joint, as if
they were always meant to be there. Those pens,
who respond to the slightest touch, who dance
across the page, at first pulled, then pulling.
Ideas pour from those pens. The hand follows,
struggles to keep up with a pen whose thoughts
are now its own. Those pens who command words,
who create worlds. To whom the writer is
merely a mechanisms, whose hand is
just a crook for the pen to settle in
while it creates the universe. Those pens,
I always seem to lose those pen.

4 responses so far

still flowing

(by hardtack) Jan 01 2012

No matter how we try to stop her, the sea is still flowing.

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(by hardtack) Dec 25 2011

A lone buoy floats by.

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Failboat Bay

(by hardtack) Dec 19 2011

Failboats at rest

Failboats at rest

Some of you following me on Twitter have no doubt experienced the wonder that is Failboat Bay. Failboat Bay is a small, no-so-safe harbor near my house where abandoned boats tend to accumulate, run aground, and rot. Not all the boats are actually abandoned. Many are the result of unwary captains failing to realize that the bay is very shallow, subject to high winds, and full of so many derelicts that it is impossible to navigate - lets call is a recreational boaters graveyard. To further chronicle the adventures of Failboat Bay, I've created a small photoblog - Failboat Bay - to document some of the more magnificent wrecks.

These boats are a haunting reminder of the power of the sea. They were people's dreams, pleasures, and, in some cases, homes, and now they are left to rot, unsalvageable, in this deadly bay.

Failboat Bay

Beneath the wrack of a rubbish-line beach,
where derelicts rest at their end,
once proud, now bound by mud,
the long, sucking

But from
their rust
and rot
soaked hulls
a sound.

The sound
of a thousand
crawling, clawing, creatures,
when lives rise from forgotten planks
to feed on the wrack where derelicts lie.

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A weary wanderer, part 1

(by hardtack) Dec 14 2011

A work in progress, an attempted retelling of the classic Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in a different age and from a different vantage point.


He was a weary wanderer.
His gaze sought out the sea.
'Neath grey stone caps and marbled plaques
They rested peacefully.

The mourner's veil did hide her eyes,
For she was next of kin.
The priest departs, the diggers start
To quench the burning sin.

His hands are young, but deeply scarred,
His face is salt and sun.
She turns to leave, but whispers he
"The fire has just begun."

He takes her hand, they set upon
The gravestone, freshly carved.
"The fires burns upon the tide
The gulf is slowly starved."

His eyes drift out, beyond the sound,
She watches where they fall
And waits to hear his sorry tale,
The story of us all.

"There was a time when old men rhyme
The legends of the sea,
Of going out and coming in,
The swell, endless and free.

We climbing atop the towering heights
To watch the rising sun.
From western edge to eastern rim,
The long horizon.

From up on high, I saw the ships
That left the port behind.
Tankers, freights, explorers, breakers,
What wonders would they find?

They ranged below the southern winds,
Above the arctic lights,
And some went deep, so deep, it seems
They pierced the endless night.

So many men set sail that day,
So many men returned.
The sea, at last, lay down her waves,
Her dangers long unlearned.

On some warm days, the yachtsmen play
With fluttering full sails,
But the ships that venture far afield
Can drive against the gale"

The mourner, she rose up to leave,
The sun now hanging low.
The wanderer stood at her side,
"May I come walk with you?

The storms once cowed a wizened crew
Now pass without a note.
The tempests rage, but in their cage
The captain makes a joke.

The ship is steel and strong and hard,
An engine built to pull.
It drags behind a dreadnaught hulk,
A floating false temple.

They drag the dreadnaught out so far,
beyond the watchers' gaze,
And anchor her, full fathoms deep,
To set her heart ablaze.

The dreadnaught beat a mighty drum,
Oh how her engines roared!
And from her hull a harpoon hung,
to pierce the deepest floor.

For months she drilled, deeper still,
Past sand and mud and stone.
She found her gold, the blackened crude,
And drew it from its tomb.

I watched with weary eyes at this,
A common, constant tale.
And since I tired of my height,
Alighted on a rail.

The crewman saw me resting there,
Not far above the deck.
And from his seat, he slung a chain
Which wrapped around my neck.

Into the sea I plunged, unseen,
The links did drag me down.
Although I fought, I gained no loft,
This wanderer did drown.

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