Mrs. Tinkham’s Cabin by Joanie DiMartino


“The smell of blubber,
pigs and hens running about…”

—Clara Tinkham, unknown newspaper, 18–


Even on what whalers call
calm waters,
my belly pitches,

bilious, empties itself
in this wooden bucket
I must keep close

while I stand at the bulwark,
stare only toward the horizon,
fierce for sight

of an island, some terra firma,
a place to steady my feet
that does not roll

on swells, this sea
like a sullen arpeggio,
the slight notes

of my parlor organ
waft in sails
soured with farm stench

and salt wind,
though I cannot crane
my neck upwards

to view the canvas,
for the sky is bold
with vertigo,

and I weary of purges,
so I seek the gimbaled bed
in this fair cabin,

rest and peck
at hardtack: there are hens
enough on deck.






Clara Tinkham's Cabin, recreated. Photo courtesy of the Mystic Seaport.
Clara Tinkham’s Cabin, recreated. Photo courtesy of Mystic Seaport.











About the Author

Joanie DiMartino has work published in many literary journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Alimentum, Calyx, and Circe’s Lament: An Anthology of Wild Women. She is a past winner of the Betty Gabehart Award in Poetry from the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. DiMartino is the author of two collections of poetry, Licking the Spoon and Strange Girls, and is completing her third manuscript, Wood to Skin, about the nineteenth-century whaling industry; prior to writing the manuscript, she was a 38th Voyager on the Charles W. Morgan. A historian, DiMartino has spent over twenty years in the museum field and currently serves as the executive director of the Smith-Harris House in East Lyme, CT.