Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "U Boat Morning, 1914" by Alan Gould



will come as we perform the mundane toil,
say, tossing the breakfast scraps astern,

or washing down the maindeck under the oblongs

of sail-shadow. The morning sun

will mint its coins across a lazy sea,

the weather tacks and sheets will rise and fall

in languid intersectings of the sea-rim.


And there, so sudden, ordinary, too close

to dodge, or do anything about but wait for

with quiet interest, will be the thing of hearsay,

cigar profile, stub tower, little gun, so credible,

for all that it will be the first such vessel

we will have seen outside some journal's

crude picture.


Through his loudhailer,

the officer will be polite, but firm,

reading the English translation from a card.

Fifteen minutes. We'll stow such extra food,

water, charts, as time will allow,

also oilskins, a mouth organ, a piece

of unfinished scrimshaw perhaps, but not clothes,

then lower the boats, and stand off from the barque

at the distance we will have been directed to.

Oddest for our sense of what is proper

will be the sight of the helm unmanned out there

in open sea.

And this will be the manner

a moment in time will surface to say, Of course

your lives are free, of course they are compelled,

as we watch, quiescent, attentive, the lifeboats,

gentle as hammock-sway in the swell beneath us,

the little gun puffing its little smoke,

and thin smoke oozing from somewhere on board.

Gradually our home will lean into

its odd stricken angle, and spill wheatgrain

from the holes in her side, slipping under,

natural as a sleeper turning under blankets.

When it is done, the captain will salute us

just once, the submarine chug away, routine

as a mailboat.


And without undue hardship

we will survive, but no-one there will serve

in sailing ships again. This is how

an ancient confidence will vanish

casually like a fashion in jokes. Instead

we'll live into a time strange to us,

we'll live aware of how the unborn have

their faces turned away from all we took

for granted, as, stubborn or quizzical, we will

submit to someone else's scheme of what

is pressing, waste on the floor of life's renewal.

And if this quiet impending morning leaves

one thought in mind, it might be wheatgrain

fanning from a ship across the ocean's dark

like brassy beads, like fabulous golden blood.



by Alan Gould



For more information about the poet, Alan Gould, see:



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