In Memory of The Titanic #3

This first poem is by the marvellous Penelope Shuttle, who tells me a distant cousin of hers, Pearl Shuttle, failed to survive the sinking of Titanic. She was on her way to America to start a career in the vaudeville.

Mighty Ship of Pride

 

I built this ship

from the iron of my father’s eyes

the steel of my mother’s heart

 

Three million rivets

 

I built this ship

from the bones and the skin

the hours and the days

 

I built it by hand

on a 49 hour week

for pay of  two pound

 

I built it from tongues

of the wise and the foolish

 

I hammered

I wrought

 

How fast she grew

my ship of woe

 

I built this ship

from the nettles

in the yard

by the nuns’ parlour

 

from streets

of a stricken city

torn between pride

and grief

 

 

I built this ship

from leftover rivers

and broken glass from all walks of life

 

from 655 black teddy bears

and the last 37 seconds

 

the old canoe

from white stars

and black moons

 

water-tight opulence

 

I built this ship

by force of habit

and from one hundred songs

 

I built it

from the remains

of all that beauty

the Grand Staircase

the chandeliers

 

I built this ship

from the death throes

of a spinning coin

 

from all who sail in her

 

note:

italicized quotations and adapted quotations in the above poem are taken from various writings on The Titanic including phrases from an anonymous poem about the workforce who built the ship in Belfast.

 

Penelope Shuttle

 

The second poem is by Rosie Topping, who was moved by the grave of the unknown baby, whose identity has since been discovered.

Probably Third Class

 The Mackay-Bennett sways, churning,
as the sea casts away its victims
Dour sailors haul bodies onto tarpaulin,
the fourth a shock: a baby.

A moment, heads bowed,
as they lift him aboard,
cradle his unblemished body
in tattooed sailor arms.

A reluctant hand pencils in his details,
their duty; it must be done.
He must be catalogued,
even as they hold him.

 No 4 – Male –Estimated age 2 – hair, fair
Clothing – Grey coat with fur on collar and cuffs;
brown serge frock, petticoat; flannel garment;
pink woollen singlet; brown shoes and stockings.
No marks whatsoever. Probably third class.

 They smooth down his fair hair;
vow to scrimp wages for a service.
Only two carry his white coffin,
a pendant at his neck, imprinted copper our babe.

Visitors place flowers, teddy bears
at the polished granite monument.
The years wash away in floods
but the memory is held.

Erected
to the memory
of an
unknown child
 

A camera watches as
scientists exhume the grave.
His secret hides in three baby teeth
preserved by his copper necklace.

Crowds invaded Southampton’s dock,
loud with the promise of adventure
Families wove through the throng,
expecting new lives.

A woman cradled her baby
whispered ‘hush babe’.
Chubby face beaming a smile,
Sidney Leslie Goodwin clung to his mother.

Rosie Toppingunknown_child_index_card

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