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The Boat

I saw an ad — “A boat for sale.
Is neither powered by steam nor sail.
In size — four fifty feet in length,
Beam, three score and fifteen — its strength
Is in its mighty ribs and keel.
Its rudder and its steering wheel,
Original — just like the rest.
One voyage put it to the test,
But since then it’s been high and dry.
The first to see this boat will buy.”

I went around to see the boat.
The owner, quite a strange old goat,
Dressed all in robes, and with a beard,
Informed me in an accent weird
That he had built and sailed the thing
Some time ago — he couldn’t bring
Himself to sell it — but he said
(With just a tinge, I thought, of dread)
That he was now too tired and old
To stock and tend a floating fold.

I puzzled over what he meant.
The ancient sailor wizened, bent,
Then showed me all about the boat.
I said: “It’s sold!” a cheque I wrote.
He said: “One thing before you buy:
Should you find anything awry
In time, a broken beam, some rot,
A hole where once there was a knot.
If then repairs you make, you should
Use nothing else but gopher wood.”

— D.N. O’Brien