A poem for Francis ‘Joe’ Nash

Rowing like an angel

Posted:  Friday, August 10, 2018 - 2:30pm

He fished a Friendship out of Vinalhaven

centuries before I knew him

working as a line chopper

for the surveyor, Edward Wayman Coffin

he was handy with a joke

out in the puckerbrush

all of which I told my new bride

the Chaplain’s daughter

she loved them

when I told him

he was horrified

when we had Joe and Mr. Coffin to dinner

he kept his eyes on the plate

never dared look at her

as beautiful as she was

I do not know if Joe ever built a Friendship

He and Mr. Coffin did build a Tancook Whaler

which they sold to a fool

who put a Genoa on it

and sailed out of sight south

much to everybody’s satisfaction

the Coffin shipyard in Owls Head

was a barnlike building attached to the garage

the lovely smells of wood being planed

paint and varnish

challenged any museum

as a real place of Maine art

it was Joe who named the yard

while they were lifting planks

he made the remark that boat building

consisted of tugging and grunting

Kendall Merriam was born and raised in Rockland. He has a history degree from Gordon College and pursued graduate studies in military and maritime history at the University of Maine at Orono and Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Conn. He received grants to study historical research at Colonial Williamsburg and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Merriam has been widely published, including in Katyn W Literaturze (Katyn in Literature), a Polish anthology of literary works about the WWII Katyn Forest Massacre by 120 international authors, including Czeslaw Milosz. Most of Merriam’s work has a definite muse – family, friends, and strangers – with life’s larger themes of work, love, loss and death.

so the man from Tuckernuck

from then on

put on all his bills, checks, wayward correspondence

that it originated

from The Tug and Grunt Shipyard

he still uses Joe’s brilliant comment

as a minor memorial

to Joe, who I think he misses a lot

though having been in Maine long enough

to be a citizen

Joe told me one story

frightening in every aspect

once he was fishing 75 spruce traps

in a Friendship

for some reason he had to get into the skiff

he used as a tender and the line came loose

his beautiful sailing vessel started to pull away

he rowed as fast as he could

Neptune forgave him and gave him angel’s arms

he caught up and scrambled aboard

he had saved one boat and his livelihood

something that burned in his mind so

that he that he told the tale

of his friendship with the sea


Kendall Merriam lives in Rockland