Anchors

— Doug Nelson

Old boat anchors, in neat rows, laid end-to-end
Rust-encrusted, on a sand dune, among wildflowers
On the Algarve, coastal Portugal, just before the Atlantic becomes the Mediterranean
A logical place for boats and anchors, but why like this?

I wanted to know so I asked and found out
That this area was known for tuna fishing
And the fishermen and their families lived in rows of neat white-painted cottages,
And their boats were drawn up onto the beach
And they mended their nets before they went out again.

Now the main industries here are salt from ponds as the salt water dries out
And tourism, taking denizens of damp, foggy northern European cities to the sandbar in boats
Where they go to lie naked in the sun
Looking like pink walruses.

Why do the tuna boats not go out any more, no longer to cast out their nets
and draw them in
so that the strong young men can jump into the teeming mass of huge desperate fish and,
gaffing them behind the head, fling them into their boats?
Did the fish stop their migration, or were so many of them caught by more modern means,
that it makes no sense to take the boats out anymore?

As it makes no sense in my country to make cars any more,
Because other people do it better and cheaper.

But I think rows of anchors in the sand make a better monument
Than derelict factory buildings.
Rust is somehow less mocking than graffiti.

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