“The Ferryman”

  The Ferryman

    for Frank Tom, circa 1875-1949, ferryman

    at Rockport, WA, crossing, circa 1915-1945


Stout and strong, a man of few words,

he waves a log truck on, holds another back.

He knows when the ferry is loaded

for a river running high, a river running low.


Hand-over-hand, he turns a windlass,

winching  bridle cable shackled to line

sweeping upward to a travelling carriage

riding a skyline between spar-trees on either shore.


He anchors the windlass, hurries to the

bankside apron arm, climbs onto its

counterbalance, grips the top rail,

forcing his weight downward, leveraging

the fulcrum lifting the apron. He kicks

a bail over the end, secures it to the deck,

scans the current for swirling debris.


In a bracing stance at the ferry’s stern,

he drives his pike into the gravelly shallows,

pushing out of the calm of a log boom lea

into the ricocheting current. Overhead,


the carriage rattles, jerking forward

with each roll of the current.

The skyline vibrates, sings

as its spar-tree guys shimmy and strain.


He unchains the windlass, stomps on

a brake pedal, slowly unspools the cable,

widening the ferry’s angle, reducing its speed.

          Upper Skagit River, WA

                                             World War II

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