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At Sea by Alex Butler


The Herring Net (1885) by Winslow Homer

I was reading, and stumbled across this story of a legendary Gloucester fisherman in Massachusetts:


In 1883, Howard Blackburn and his dory mate Tom were cod fishing in their two man trawler, and were separated from their mother ship, the Grace Fears. In blizzard conditions, and after five (5) days, the two were assumed dead. When Blackburn returned, he was a hero. Tom passed away and Blackburn resorted to curling his frozen fingers around the oars in order to keep rowing the entire 60 miles... such a incredible example of human resilience.


Juxtaposed in the prose is a simple sonnet, detailing a man’s basket of fish and chips - a roadside snack that he enjoys. It is exactly the fish which Blackburn is bringing back from his fishing voyage. With these two characters - one significantly sacrificing and one reaping the benefits - I tried to create a sense of contrast.



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Alex Butler is a nurse in the operating rooms at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, specializing in the trauma and oncology unit. He is an avid reader and writer, living in Somerville, where he enjoys cooking with his wife, Allison.