Tag Archives: poems

In Memory of Titanic #7

 

 

ATT00561The Titanic disaster affected people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is good to have a poem from an American poet today. It must have been difficult for survivors to give witness statements at the enquiries after the fact.

 

Premonition

—North Atlantic, 1912

Things unseen are nonsense to him.
It will mean trouble,

I plead once more,
paused on the dock.

But he knows better.
I sleep when I can by day,

write by night,
listen for sounds,

not knowing what I expect
to hear, but feeling a pall—

the veil of a mourner’s hat.
Suddenly the pen flies from my hand,

words lost
in a blue sea of ink.

I stagger into walls.
We are lowered in a small boat.

Bodies splash below.
We drift, float on the wake;

our breath spurts steam:
we listen to silence, the last word.

Marc J. Frazier
This lovely poem was sent to me via Linkedin. I relish all the details and the lexical choices.

Skating through the Atlantic

Skating through the Atlantic Someone says that name and once again
the ice sails silent from the north;a block
of frozen stars, a giant fist of knives
hid under blackboard water, hard as steel
and tempered sharp as oriental swords.

A skate slipped off its skater, the ship glides
slanting through ocean depths till, two miles down,
it shudders on the sand. A bronze gong sounds
from Greenland to Antarctica, waking whales
from icy sleep, a long vibrating ‘Om’.

Scales shiver throughout the ocean, plankton
morphs, medusae shrink, oysters snap tight shut.
The water fills with spoons, chairs, chandeliers,
jewels, antiques, art, the dead, and diamond rings;
the seabed is a Tiffany of wares.

We may be sure we’ll lose all we bought dear
and memory is salt water that preserves
at random precious, or just worthless, stones.
So rust consumes the wrecks of age and love
and stars released from melting ice dissolves.

Gabriel Griffin

Finally today, this from Harry Gallagher

Sinkable
Smooth and serene

in best silver and bows,
we set out on high tide,
shipshape to the world.

And life was a teadance
for the beautiful and young,
as we cruised on a blanket
of honeyed and blithe.

But surface dwellers
rarely look under
for the city of ice
that will tear them asunder.

One seven stars night
we sailed, titanic,
into a colossus hiding
ready in the depths.

Immovable and staunch
sinks newborn and tender
every single time.

These three poems work together in summing up the aftermath of the sinking. Tomorrow will be the final day and I have something very special from a poet who wrote a whole collection around this endlessly fascinating subject.

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In Memory of Titanic #6

Today’s poems are from Peter Wyton. It seems he too is fascinated by the musicians on Titanic.

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

William Hartley, bandmaster on the Titanic

He has resurfaced in Colne, Lancashire,
leadership duties appropriately fulfilled,
discipline maintained, morale boosted
by the slender point of his baton,
until the ocean’s cold ovation
swamped him and his gallant band.
Now firmly anchored to his plinth
on the sloping deck of Albert Street,
awash in Blues Festival revellers,
rag-time favourites he might have played
swirling around his sculpted ears,
he seems threatened by the white bulk
of the First World War Memorial,
bearing down on him at a rate of knots,
crewed, amongst others, by twenty-three
bearers of his surname.

(first published in an issue of Smiths Knoll magazine)

A SONG OF AUTUMN

They played, as good musicians should,
wherever they could find an audience.
‘A’ Deck, initially, the First Class Lounge.
Later, Grand Staircase, on the Boat Deck Level.
Lastly, the stricken liner’s canting deck,
as lifeboat after lifeboat crawled like beetles
across stark Atlantic swell. Applaud
a literally gallant band, not one of whom
survived to turn this unique booking
to career advantage. Their choice of music
still provokes conjecture, decades on.
‘Nearer My God To Thee’, the headlines screamed,
much more concerned with sales than common sense.
These troupers plied their trade to boost morale,
not reconcile their audience to a watery grave.
Rational survivors spoke of lively tunes,
contemporary hits from London and New York,
like ‘In The Shadows’’Alexander’s Ragtime Band’
and ‘Songe d’Automne’, most plausible contender
for the dubious accolade of
what the band was playing when the ship went down.

(First published in Chimera)

titanic-musicians

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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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