POET’S RESUME (AN EXCERPT)
COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN 1990-2005
Build a salmon seine a quarter mile long and 32 fathoms deep. Lace together four panels of net, hang corks along the top, weight it with lead line along the bottom. Stand on concrete. Pull the net by hand. Master reliable knots. Tolerate AC/DC: Sing to Macy Gray. Drink your first beer at 4 pm. Give Jim’s daughter your bottle caps for her third grade show-and-tell on Friday.
- Sea Stores: Marlboro Light 100s (1 case); Sam Adams (30 cases); Guinness (30 cases); Crown Royal (2 cases); Bushmills – large bottles (one case); Kahlua for skipper’s afternoon coffee (half case); Decoy Beer for visitors. (Rainer, PBR or Schlitz -15 cases)
- Boat: Primary fuel filters, secondary fuel filters, air filters, 5-gallon pails of Delo 100 & 400, hydraulic fluid, tubes of grease, gaskets for hatches, rebuilt starter, 110 and 12-volt light bulbs, replace disappeared tools and the dishes I threw overboard last season.
- Galley: Bacon, butter, bread, eggs, milk, cheese, half-n-half for coffee and quiche, ground beef, rib-eye, pork ribs, standing rib roast, chicken whole, chicken breast, one turkey I’ll never actually cook, potatoes, pasta, rice (20 lbs), soy sauce, olive oil, coffee, coffee, oatmeal, spices half the crew will be afraid of, coffee.
Check running lights, adjust the squelch on VHF radio, change the range on the radar ⎯ change it back. Don’t rely on GPS navigation: know where the paper charts are kept. Look behind you, use the binoculars (except in fog), listen for oncoming traffic on channels 13 & 16, practice your security calls, memorize your vessel’s call sign, review The Rules of the Road. Stand up, move around, open the wheelhouse window, smell the ocean, praise Sooty Shearwaters and Coast Guard Helicopters. Check the pyrometer and oil pressure gauge, push the button on the watch alarm. Start over.
Sleep in your clothes. Know where your boots are. Be the first out of the fo’c’sle. Use the head. Make coffee. Check that the net is hooked up. Greet everyone with: “Good Morning Sunshine.” Blow them a kiss when they growl, a second one when the flip you off. Make another pot of coffee. Take the skipper toast with almond butter. Look for fish. Make more coffee. Check the net again. Make sure the deck is secure. Pull on your rain pants. Release the bear trap. Watch the net go out. Do a little dance because you wear rubber pants for a living. Rinse the deck. Loosen the hatches on the fish-hold. Catch the pass line, wrap it around the deck- winch, give the skiff driver the signal to disconnect and drive like hell out of the net. Start the power-block, grab the corks; use all your weight to get them started. While you run gear, think about sex or work a new poem in your head. Make your best cork- pile ever. Ignore the rain. Tell the wind to go fuck itself. Tell the guy next to you his mom dresses him funny. Open the hatches, roll the fish on board, hook up the skiff. Repeat for 15 hours.
Forgive them. Healthy childhoods don’t lead to fishing. Never cook when you’re angry or the food will be bitter. Keep your shit in your bunk. Have affairs with men on other boats. Cry in private. Get yourself a hotel room in August, take a bath, paint your toenails, ignore the cover band playing on the other side of the thin wall. Never get too drunk. If you do, forgive yourself. Be extra friendly with the skipper’s wife; encourage his daughter to go to college.
SPECIAL TRAINNING AND SKILLS
Coast Guard certified in basic first aid and CPR
Able to right a capsized life raft
Trained to shoot flares down wind
Trained in preparing injured crew for helicopter transport
Experienced as pop psychologist/ amateur therapist
Able to translate what wives and girlfriends said or wrote
Able to recognizing posttraumatic stress disorder
Somewhat successful at deescalating psychotic breaks
Understands that some people are just assholes
Port, starboard, forward, aft, bow, stern, fo’c’sle, lazarette, half hitch, clove hitch, bowline, lovers knot, freeboard, false deck, fairlead, deck-winch, vanging-winch, picking boom, power block, davit, dump-box, buoy stick, PTO, chiller, seacock, shaft, rudder, keel, magnetic north, true north, degrees of variation, aurora borealis, bio luminescence, Morning Star.
I have all my digits. I was never medevac’d. I never fell overboard. I never worked on a boat that sank. We did get stuck on a boulder once, but it was a flood tide and we floated off before anyone noticed or called the Coast Guard. I was only shot at once while fishing. I know that people die when we least expect it. Ironically, it will most likely be on the beach, in a car, with alcohol. I laugh when asked if fishing is dangerous. I know that fishermen live in two parallel worlds: the boat and everywhere else. Like train tracks, these worlds never cross. I know that fishing is not the hardest job, but it will make the ones that follow less urgent.
Erin Fristad worked as a commercial fisherman for 15 years. Her first collection of poetry, The Glass Jar, is forthcoming in May 2016. You can order your copy today at Finishing Line Press. Erin graduated from Goddard’s MFA in Creative Writing Program in 2003. She currently works as a writer, educator, facilitator… and itinerate farmhand. Learn more about Erin at www.erinfristad.com.