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(From a painting by marine artist Peter Rogers)

The boats sit at Aveiro by the river's mouth, their bows scattered as compass points, small scoops on an interminable huge sea rising to the ever-imagined yet illumined line of sight where the gallant Genovese fell off the known world. They are not deserted, though faintly cold for oarsmen who walk down this beach behind me, stomachs piqued and perched with wine, salted hands still warm with women, mouths rich with memory and signals. And sons are left who later come down this beach to these small boats topping the Atlantic, gunnels only bare inches from the Father of Oceans, coursed to the stalked anchorage by a thin rope and a night of tidal pull. At Aveiro I stand between commotion and the other, silence; inhaling spills of olla podridas riding the ocean air with a taut ripeness, early bath scents, night's wet mountings and varieties peeled and scattered to dawn, and see boats move the way the sea and earth move against a distant cloud. I question the hammer and the swift arc that drove the raw poles of their moorings into the sea floor. I picture a mustachioed Latin god laughing at his day's work while waving to a woman on the strand; and see her, urged from bed or kitchen, in clothing gray and somber, near electric in her movement and scale of mystery, eye the god eye to eye. Such is the mastery of eyes. The artist tells us what is missing is important. Inland, before dawn hits, an oarsman knows an old callus where the Atlantic sends swift messages, for up through the toss of heel and calf, through the thew of thigh and spinal matter, radiant in his miles of nerves, these small boats gathered at Aveiro speak of their loneliness.



small boats at aveiro

tom sheehan