Sheila-Na-Gig online


Travis Stephens

Travis Stephens is a tugboat captain who resides with his family in California. An alumni of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, recent credits include: 2River, Sheila-Na-Gig online, Hole in the Head Review, GRIFFEL, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Visit him at:


Fishermen hold their hands apart
this big
ages old measure of a got away.
Jack raises his glass to the bartender
& holds up a pinch. Two fingers.
We have purchased a digital scale
because the recipes in the
baking book, between gorgeous
color plates, are in grams with
cup, half cup, teaspoons, in parentheses.

I think of my father who, when walking
the fields counted his steps & calculated
acreage. How many acres planted today
in corn, oats or hope? We were paid by
the hundredweight of milk.
How much is that? About a tenth of a cow
or a supermodel, size small.
One year I wrestled in the sixty-two
pound weight class & came in third.

I wonder if Billy Shakes, writing his sonnets,
counted syllables on his fingers.
Did Dante raise his eyes from manuscript
to bone white buildings and blue sky
to think, another circle done. Not bad.
Perhaps one more canto today.

In my work most of it is figured
in tons, gravel on a barge, bunker
C or tons per inch immersion.
A crane’s safe working load.
Kilowatts and bollard pull are tools of this trade
like a carpenter’s tape always on hip.
Get a bigger hammer.
Get a bigger tugboat.

My grandfather in his eighties liked
to walk the woods & eyeball the trees.
Slim ironwood. Sweet maple. Oak.
Tap them with a walking stick
announce the boardfeet expected.
They didn’t seem to mind.
Horsepower in his day was four-footed.
Once I brought him a bottle of amber
Belgian beer & we opened it
where Grandma couldn’t see.
He drank & nodded before handing it back.
Funny sized bottle, he said.
From overseas, I said, and read four hundred
fifty-five milliliters.
Let’s call it a pound, I said.
Good enough, he answered.
One for the goose & one for the gander.
We drank with
the slow pace of the thirsty, one foot
in front of another, estimating the distance
from the grave to today.

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