Michael Philips

Naming The Boat

When we first bought the boat
My dad was focused on the rigging
The types and locations of winches and cleats
The sizes of the genoas and spinnakers
Making sure all halyards routed back to the cockpit
My attention was on coming up with a name
How about Clytemnestra?
I liked the sound of it
Like a bird taking flight from its nest
And more than a whiff of danger
My mother recoiled
Do you know who she was?
Might as well name it Darth Vader, she said.
My argument was that we should suggest something fearful
Like Iago or Billy the Kid
My mother laughed through her nose
And said other sailors would not be afraid
Of a boat named Iago.

Naming a boat is like naming a band
Going through reams of names
Over breakfast, in the car, on the phone
Some proffered humorously in exhaustion
But my suggestion was serious
Clytemnestra
Maybe I shouldn’t have offered it right off the bat
Maybe waited until they were worn down by the rejections
They ended up naming her Gemini
My mom’s sign.
I cringed at the blandness and thought it a curse
And the reason we won very few races

Poem Submitted: Sunday, January 23, 2005
Poem Edited: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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