CLEMENS STARCK sailed off the West Coast as a deckhand with the Seafarers International Union (SIU) in the late ‘60s. Mostly he has worked as a carpenter and construction foreman. Five books of his poems have been published: Journeyman’s Wages (1995), Studying Russian on Company Time (1999), China Basin (2002), Traveling Incognito (2004), and Rembrandt, Chainsaw, (2011). He lives in rural Oregon. His new CD "Getting it Straight" with Jon Broderick and Jay Speakman's musical accompaniment (2013) is available for purchase. Contact Clem at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sample from the CD is below (The Pan-Oceanic Faith).
Clem Starck performs "Riding the Highball" Video courtesy of Brad Wartman, 2013
“Another Christmas shot to hell,”
the bosun says. Mid-ocean, last traces of Asia
five days astern.
Door to steel locker rattles softly.
Open porthole, cold air
“Nothing out here
but us,” the bosun says. Black lacquerware
sliver of the waning moon.
Course is zero-eight-zero. Following seas.
Bosun’s name is McCaskey.
He’s a high roller.
In the galley, over coffee and a cigarette, he discusses
and the best way
of stopping off a mooring line.
from China Basin
Story Line Press, 2002
Mostly we hauled asphalt,
tens of thousands of drums of asphalt.
called for southeast Asia to be a parking lot.
If it wasn’t asphalt, it was bombs.
The bombs were for the enemy.
One trip, four days out of southern California
in heavy seas, the cargo began to shift.
We climbed down into the hold with shoring timbers
The bombs in their fragile wooden crates
tossed about like restless sleepers,
a nightmare screech of nails pulling and wood
The rest of the trip
morale was low. Not even
the cook’s special blueberry pancakes
The people the bombs were for
scattered. Deer at the start of hunting season,
they knew we were coming
and they were scared too
from Journeyman’s Wages
Story Line Press, 1995
The Pan-Oceanic Faith
The night the Pan-Oceanic Faith went down
in a storm in the North Pacific,
we were a hundred miles south of her,
plowing through stormy seas.
As it turned out,
she was a sister ship—SIU, like us. Two of our crew
had boarded her in Seattle, months earlier.
But something about her
and before she sailed they signed off.
The sea that night was wild—green water
breaking over our bow.
I had just been relieved at the wheel
stepped into the wheelhouse to report to the mate
that he’d picked up
an SOS . . .
When Conrad wrote, “The sea came at us
like a madman with an axe,”
he had it right.
Ten thousand tons of welded steel plate—buckled
and smashed, by water.
Three survivors, out of a crew of forty-two--
the chief engineer, and one AB . . .
“Why those three?” we wondered
all the rest of the way in to Newport, Oregon,
and looked around
weighing our chances,
sizing each other up.
from Traveling Incognito
Wood Works, 2004