Laura Jensen: Degrees of Separation from Bad Boats

Mental associations are one of the big cognitive mysteries. Neurons connect in our brains almost effortlessly, without our being fully aware of the process. This morning a series of five associations led me from thoughts of Clarence Laughlin, the New Orleans surreal photographer who specialized in ghostly veiled women, masks, cemeteries, and antebellum ruins, to the title poem of Laura Jensen’s Bad Boats. How, exactly, does that happen?

And how’s that for burying the lead? Jensen’s poem hasn’t lost any of its appeal since I first read it about fifteen years ago.

“Bad Boats”

They are like women because they sway.
They are like men because they swagger.
They are like lions because they are king here.
They walk on the sea. The drifting
logs are good: they are taking their punishment.
But the bad boats are ready to be bad,
to overturn in water, to demolish the swagger
and the sway. They are bad boats
because they cannot wind their own rope
or guide themselves neatly close to the wharf.
In their egomania they are glad
for the burden of the storm the men are shirking
when they go for their coffee and yawn.
They are bad boats and they hate their anchors.

Laura Jensen, Bad Boats
The Ecco Press, 1977

Visit Laura Jensen’s blog:

Laura Jensen


Camille Martin

4 responses to “Laura Jensen: Degrees of Separation from Bad Boats

  1. Studying her at ASU


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