Time on Water by Robert Gibbons

Shelter & Vessel

The kind of torrential rain that makes one glad someone down the long ancestral line invented the roof, instead of sitting in a tree with a leaf over head. Let alone the bed. Bed for the ballast of her body. Windows for lightning. The storm essentially just a prelude to the symphony of clouds it pulled out to sea afterward. Layer upon layer of nimbostratus almost within reach above the ocean. In the distance, at the horizon, sun coming up colored the fleeing squall line a velvet theater-curtain red. From the vantage point of the boat one could witness the whole dynamic. Once sun climbed the mountainous clouds, stratocumulus appeared with breaks revealing clear sky. The sea churned that oily black mixture low clouds turn sunlight into. I didn't even bother taking my book out of my bag. Watching was listening the whole way across Boston Harbor. There were hints of Debussy & Copland. I remained silent until I got off the boat & saw Donal O'Sullivan standing on the dock. I told him I didn't think anyone but Baudelaire could do those clouds justice in words. Then he summed the whole mysterious natural phenomena up in one phrase, with the added musical intrigue of what's left of his Irish brogue, "Yes," he said looking over his left shoulder past the oily sunlight on the water, "those clouds this morning were really sinister." Thanking him for the gift of the word, the exact one I thought I needed, we shared that mutual smile of men from a line who've made both shelter & vessel out of language alone.


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