Fleet in being

SAMSUNG

Beneath it is all dark and wave-muffled

in these broken stories of

battles below the waterline in

the war before the war that was still visible in the

shaken eyes of anyone who seemed to us old but

even we knew he’d been too long in

the baffle zone behind time.

 

And besides a stroke had jellied his tongue

his slow words were waves

full of stones   either fog quiet or foghorn

and louder even was the wrestling always on

in the corner black and white     animal grunts of fighting men.

 

I’m so short in my heavy seat my nose is

near the chenille cloth the smell is

dusky polish and years of tea

the table a deep green sea between us.

The Outer Jade Road has

salt and pepper pots

moving as destroyers above and

cutlery is laid out as Scapa Flow.

 

There was coughing at diesel and salt rain

and a fire   they were trapped behind

flames in a steel whale deep in the

cold open sea and then there

was a U-boat captured to protect our fishing.

 

We still have the brass binoculars of the captain

Zeiss lenses tuned to an astigmatism.

 

His voice rose up     he had tears

he had tapped a seam of molten fear

that we had not        he must

hand this on but too young we could not

decode the signals from his  time dive

could not tell him aye aye

 

but we hold the prisoner’s eyes   a salt-pot gunship

the risen voice   and the choking fire

to pass on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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