A Ship to Remember
Hammers. Timbers. Iron. Steel.
They're laying down a mighty keel.
As ant-like workers scurry round
I hear a truly riveting sound.
And as she rises midst the swarm
I see the beauty of her form.
(He has no soul who cannot see
How I am forced to call her "she".)
And then, 'a sudden, she's a ship!
She waltzes down that mighty slip.
Then, in the water, no splash, mind,
This lady floats. Oh! How refined!
Southampton docks: I want to feel,
And touch, and taste the British steel!
Palatial, and stately too.
(There was no like in Xanadu.)
The passengers, the crew, all we
Are safe aboard, so out to sea.
The cheers, the midget well-wish fleet,
That siren deck beneath my feet!
A jewelled city, in the night,
From shame, the very stars took flight.
Her mighty speed seemed but a creep,
So steady that she seemed asleep.
Indeed the city slept. A few
Remained awake, they mostly crew,
To feed the rav'nous boilers' maw,
To bake the bread, sort mail, and more.
I almost dozed and wished my bed,
"Iceberg!", "Iceberg! Dead ahead!"
With straining engines, spinning wheel,
She strove to swerve her awesome keel
And almost, almost, but, not quite --
A straining shrieking rent the night
And rent her hull. (I took no fright.)
'Twas but a glancing blow", I think,
She will not, cannot, must not sink!
But down below the decks, unseen:
In sneaks the ocean cold and keen.
And as up each steel wall it grows
It reaches top, and overflows.
Boats are lowered. Ah! Sad few.
"Women and babes first!", shout the crew.
A panicked man, in dressing-gown:
"My God! My God! She's going down!"
"Nearer my God, to thee how near".
The band plays on, to calm the fear.
"You've done your duty, lads, now go."
But does the music stop? Oh no.
A fervent prayer to He who saves
As down she slips beneath the waves.
Then those dreadful screams.
(I sometimes hear them in my dreams.)
Next morn, upon that sorrowed billow
A wreath, a chair, a toy, a pillow.
No souls, the souls are all asleep.
I stand in silent prayer, and weep.
Patrick Lockerby - March 2005
Born 1946, London, England.
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