Gitchee Gumee

Poet: Daniel Neer | Composer: Jonathan David

November gales of green-foam swell, churning up my past,
A hungry wind claws at my soul, deafening to the last,
My Nemesis, this icy-bitch, numbs fast the pain of death,
As memories play across my mind, a chapter with each breath,
This steel ship twists around my life, until a calm awakes,
And then I’m under joining the Great Lakes.

16 years old Dad taught me how to shave,
Bought me a razor and a can of Barbasol,
Bragged to his buddies down on the docks,
Said he’d make a man out of me,
See my face, full of foam, bathroom mirror:
Now is the time I become a man.

19, joined the Corps, Semper Fi,
Fresh meat, off the bus, Camp LeJeune,
Sweaty hot restless youth melting in the sun,
Uncle Sam said he’d make a man out of me,
See my face, lean and strong, Sergeants shades:
Now is the time I learn to fight.

22, home from Korea, met the love of my life,
Stunned at first sight by an angels loving smile,
Future clear, loving wife, house full of kids,
Whispered in my ear she’d make a man out of me,
See my soul reflected in heaven-blue eyes:
Now is the time I learn to love.

38, laid-off so I joined the Lakes,
Trained as a Deck Hand like my Dad and Granddad,
Topside work, winches locked, cargo hold of taconite,
Captain said the Fitz would make a man out of me,
See my work polished bright, shiny brass bell:
Now is the time I learn to sail.

43, holding tight, white-knuckled shock,
Ankle deep, flick’ring light, ship breaking up,
Listing hard, howling fear, rivets popping loose,
Gitchee Gumee shrieks she’ll make a man out of me,
See the truth staring back, ship-mates face:
Now is the time I learn to die.

November gales of green-foam swell, churning up my past,
A hungry wind claws at my soul, deafening to the last,
This steel ship twists around my life, until a calm awakes,
And then I’m under, peace at last, joining the Great Lakes.