Down at the Docks

I was once a casual longshoreman. I worked at the docks in Wilmington, San Pedro. I worked among giant ships that camped on the Pacific Ocean and waited for their

one million dollar a night slip;

at 3 am when the ocean was dark and only the blind man saw

my big


Ford that trundled over Harry Bridges, halfway up to heaven, above the lights on the ships, the cranes like drooling giraffes with razor sharp wire that swung in the orange wind, grabbing giant containers filled with

God Knows What.

I stood on the crowded docks with my orange light as the eighteen wheelers skimmed by.

The veterans drank beer and whiskey; the new guys like me only dreamed of drinking beer and whiskey, getting paid six figures a year while the ships floated in from overseas with the merchant marines while the longshoremen



chins held higher than I’d ever seen on a man)

strutted the docks with

big smiles

red noses

leather skin.

And I waltzed amid strangers who talked of Brando and On the Waterfront.

(There wasn’t a day I worked where Brando or that movie wasn’t mentioned).

And this locale:

the ships

the cranes

the sea

made me feel tough:

a man

a Longshoreman




Jack London.

(I had never worked with giant ships. I had never been so impressed with myself)

But as soon as the sky turned black and the Cranes went to sleep, and as soon as my Ford stopped trundling, the ships that rolled in from overseas gathered like ants on a piece of sun raped candy

(dropped by a snotty nosed kid and left for dead)

And when the moon is purple, I can still see the lights of the ships and the giant giraffes still drooling that razor sharp wire, grabbing giant containers filled with

God Knows What.

*Poem by Jon Vreeland and pic by Maggie Land Blanck

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