Mayport: Shrimp Boat through the Jetties

by Tim Gilmore, 6/22/2012

If once you see the beauty of the world, it will pierce your heart like Ahab’s harpoon baptized in blood and in lightning, and if your heart is never pierced, you have never seen the beauty of the world.

Mayport early 50s shrimp boats

courtesy State Archives of Florida,

But this is not Ahab. This captain is drunk before noon.

Vito had thought of himself as a loser in jail, needed to remake himself, would take any job he could get, was open to things.

No worker’s comp. Be careful. The winch can rip off your arm. The downrigger can cut you in half.

Black smoke pours from the engine stacks.

Paint peels into the water between the jetties and metal corrodes into the Atlantic.

The fog begins to glow in the sunrise on the ocean.

The captain is no lubber at all. The water for him is the earth, as the earth is mostly water after all.

Standing in fish up to the knees. Sorting out shrimp. Throwing the vast dead by-catch of fish back into the sea makes Vito sick. Oh, the waste! Oh the wasted life!

The rusted boat trawls beneath swarms of birds.

The harpoon was baptized in blood before it became a lightning rod. Strike through the wall. And the beauty of the world will strike through your heart like Ahab’s harpoon. Or like Bernini sculpted the angel’s arrow piercing the heart of St. Teresa. The agony is erotic. The agony is more than sexual. The agony of the piercing is the beauty of the world. Hast seen the white whale?