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Center of Effort

by Matthew Nienow

Though you may not hear these words
they belong to the boat, or the boat
to them: goose neck, throat nock, topping
lift, parrel, and the traveler runs slick
along the horse, helps the mainsheet
stay trim, which means full, which
means movement, the line locked
in the jaws of the cleat, and the cant
of the boat reminds you of a particular
man you knew as a child—was he your
teacher?—who always cocked his head
to one side while talking to you
as if everything were a question, were
a curiosity to be considered
from a fresh angle, and the boat
looks at you the same way, until
the only answer can be wind, which
never tells you what it means, but
often sounds like yes.


Matthew Nienow is the author of three chapbooks, including The End of the Folded Map (2011). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in such venues as Best New Poets, Indiana Review, New England Review, Poetry Northwest, and Prairie Schooner, and has been recognized with awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Foundation, and Seattle’s leading arts organization, 4Culture. He lives in Port Townsend, Washington, where he works as a boat builder. (1/2012)

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