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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Joplin – May 2011

A city of trees
Is no more,
It's just a broken
City,
Awaiting help
In stark disbelief,
While a hundred
Chain saws,
Strip it bare
Of the wreckage
Of its beauty.
They were spared
The Presidential
Circus,
For a week,
A week to
Take stock,
To look for dead,
To gather pictures,
Broken treasures,
But now they've got,
Their photo op,
They can plant
Their trees anew,
And if they live,
Ninety years,
Well,
Ninety years more,
They'll see
Their city
Bloom anew.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Midwatch

Inside,
There's silence,
We're steaming
Independently,
No radio,
Not even a radar contact
Is announced,
There's no sign
Of the moon,
On the bridge wing,
The sounds of the night
Are different,
The bow throws
The seas aside
With a rough hiss,
There seems to be
A rhythm to it,
Then it's broken,
Then it's back,
Then it's broken again,
There's just enough
Of a sea,
To give the ship
Some motion,
But not so much,
That you can't
Set down,
Those cheap cardboard
Coffee cups,
The ones you have to
Double up.
The single gas turbine
Gives a soft,
Steady whine,
In these modern times,
There are no more
On watch
In engineering,
Than on the bridge,
A man from
The steam world,
Would be amazed.
The chart says:
“Straight on 'til dawn,”
A wonderful smell says
“Request permission
To come on the bridge,”
The cook brings
Fresh donuts,
All things have pluses,
Even the midwatch,
It's 0300,
Only forty-five minutes
To go.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Celebration of Local 5082, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

Dedicated to one of the first teachers' strikes in the United States:

What did the little girl do in school today?
She read her speller,
She read her geography book,
She read her math book.
The teacher watched her.
The teacher read a magazine.
He was A Man from headquarters.
The fact that he couldn't teach
Was irrelevant.

No school milk today,
The principal told the milk man
To go away.
She was right there when he came,
On the picket line that he would not cross.
Good old Miss Oh Never Mind.
She had always run a tight ship,
Now she kept her teachers in line,
Out on the sidewalk.
And each striker's sign...
Had perfect spelling.

Teacher strikes are illegal in this state.
(Not anymore,
Not if you want us back,
You'll give us amnesty.)
Before we discuss our raises,
Let's discuss tenure,
Tenure for all after two years.
You don't mind, do you?
All teachers are the same;
They are all outstanding.
We can prove it.
Look out the window,
They're all out standing
On the picket line.
You say you need to talk salaries first,
So you can set your budget?
Fine! Just give us all tenure,
Then we'll talk about anything you like.

Mommy, will we have to go to school
In the summer?
No sweetie, school is still open.
But we're not learning anything,
We have no teacher,
A man just sits there and watches us
So we can't talk to each other.
I want to learn to spell.
Can I bring my speller home?
You can't bring your books home;
Only the teachers are allowed
To use the school books.
Mommy, my teacher
Called me
a scab,
And she won't come to class.
What's a scab?
It's nothing. Your teacher is sick, that's all.

What is school for in an old mill town?
Is it for football?
Is it for gym?
Is it for Wednesday morning instruction
At St. Claire's?
Is it for mid morning milk?
Bring your nickel, please.
Is it for the Federal Lunch?
Bring a quarter,
Cheers!
'Cause it's shepherd's pie today.
Is it for collective bargaining?
Oh, yeah, dats it.
Learning? Oh, sorry, maybe dat too.
Ah teachahs speak a well English.
'Long as we got tenyah.
See yuhs later.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Karachi To Seychelles

It's a trip worth making,
The promise of a
Rare resort,
An island paradise
In the midst of nowhere,
Or darned near
A decent port visit,
Finally.

You get to go alone,
Pray for good weather,
Eleven hundred miles
In a tin can.
Karachi to Seychelles,
We have enough fuel,
But not too much.

We get lucky,
The sea is like glass,
We see no other ship for days,
But we do have a surprise guest,
We are in company with
An owl.

Is he bad luck?
Sailors are superstitious,
But we like the company
On the empty sea.
He circles us all day.
Clockwise, always clockwise.
Riding air currents,
At yardarm level,
Never higher,
Appearing to forever be eying us,
Airborne whenever I come on deck,
Those wings never move.
Does he never rest?
Presumably at dusk.
He's on deck at dawn,
Back on station.

An obstacle stands in our way,
We must cross the line,
We've only thirty some shell backs,
And they have
One hundred and eighty plus
Pollywogs to process.

Does some fool really try
To see how the toilets
Flush,
When we are on
The equator?
We use flushometers,
You fool.
They always flush
Violently.
Besides,
King Neptune summons you.

We pass a single ship along the way,
One tramp steamer,
The entire trip,
En route home port,
Delhi,
A rust bucket.
This passes for excitement?

Finally, Mahe in sight,
The home island,
Deep water,
Easy anchorage.
We arrive with
Nineteen per cent fuel.
We are grateful for
Perfect weather.
Without it we'd be
Suckin' fumes.

What are those
Soviet fishing boats?
What are they doing there?
Who cares?
Write the intel report,
And go ashore,
To the beach,
To the hotel,
Buffets,
All kinds of
Fish,
Clams,
Shark,
Satellite calls home,
The Seychelloise are
So proud of their
Ground station,
And we are so
Pleased to use it!

Let us not have to leave,
It's a long way back to the Gulf,
And the reward is so
Very minimal.

Exercise for the student:
Compare and contrast,
Seychelles and Bandar Abbas,
That garden spot,
Of Iran,
Tongue in cheek,
As required.

How Old Will Glory Get?

July fourth, 1976,
New York Harbor,
A celebration,
Two hundred years
Of freedom
And success.
A naval review of
A great power,
Ships from dozens
Of nations,
Help it
Bask in the
Reflection of its
Own glory.
One might keep
In mind,
The hazards of
Vertigo.
From great heights,
Comes great acceleration.
The laws of physics
Will not be repealed.

Thirty-five years thence,
So much energy spent,
And now other rules
May not be repealed.
A literal accounting
Comes due,
In a time of self denial.
The nation that once
Put the world
On its shoulders,
Can't believe
That it has
Limits.
The nation of great
Political thinkers,
Mistakes what it wants,
For what it was.

The center cannot hold
If it is not there,
And the center,
Is no longer
Even acknowledged.
Its existence,
Is recalled
With contempt.

The true state
Of a system,
Can never be
Perceived,
From within,
And accordingly,
We are never enabled
To perceive
Our arrival,
Until
It has occurred.
This is never
So true,
As for the end,
Wherever it may be.
“May the present occasion
Excite our most serious thoughts.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Among The Ice

We are alone,
Truly alone.
Not a sea bird,
Nor a whale in sight.
That which travels with us
Is unseen.
The sky is nearly gray,
Barely mottled,
Where it meets the sea
There is no horizon,
No stars to shoot
Tonight,
No sun lines
At noon.
Just keep a good DR,
And look for ice.
The penciled ice limit lines
On our charts,
Tell the story.
The word has come
From the ice patrol,
It's there.

The seascape is
Flecked with white.
In the distance,
Every white horse
Is a berg,
A bergy bit,
A growler,
Who knows?
Ice could be hiding
Out there too
In plain sight.
We have radar,
Sonar,
And,
The Mark I eye ball,
All high tech weapons
Of avoidance.
The odds of hitting
A berg
Are tiny,
But the Captain is
On edge because,
He is smart.
“Steak and cake
For the first watch section
To spot a berg.”
Boats asks if that includes
Bergy bits and growlers.
Someone was listening
At lookout training.
For sonar,
It's just another
Underwater object,
For the radar operator,
It's an intermittent
Contact.
For us on the bridge,
It's cold,
Windy,
And everything looks like
A patch of white.

Forward lookout has it first.
Nice.
Radar can only confirm.
Suddenly,
Everyone is out there
For a look.
Just a little white blob
On the horizon.
Weps wants to shoot it,
And why not,
No one owns it.
Train and elevation motors whir,
The gunnery director slews
Above our heads.
Then mount 51 erupts,
Once,
Then once more,
The range is set,
Small as that berg
May be,
We hit her several times,
A berg,
It turns out,
Is quite tough to kill.
From our fire,
She's none the worse
For wear,
Naval gunfire,
Proven once again,
Inadequate
As an ice control system.
Off we go,
Our nose once more
Headed west,
With dreams of lobsters
by the barrel,
Dancing in our chilly heads.
Just three days to
St John, Newfyland.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Homage to Robert Strange McNamara

We pay homage
To you,
Dear Bob,
Not as misguided,
But as pure evil.
A man brilliant
Enough,
To realize he was
Wrong,
But lie,
While trying to
Understand
Why
His numbers,
Inexplicably,
Did not
Work out,
While boys died.
Not everyone
Can use teenagers
To keep time,
But you did.

Couldn't you tell,
That your data
Were
Junk?
You could command
People to
Collect,
They laughed while
They presented
You crap.
If your models
Could have talked,
They would have
Laughed,
At you.

Reporters,
For whom
Everything is new,
Were sure
That you brought
Systems analysis,
To the
Puzzle Palace.
I guess they missed
World War Two.
You did ensure
It was used,
To build
Many,
Bad,
Weapons.
You get 'A'
For effort,
Professor.

Those dead soldiers' Moms
Applaud you.
They hope to
Meet you in hell,
For another go round.
You somehow thought,
That all of life,
Could be reduced
Numerically.
How bizarre.

In the end,
Your failure
Was not numerical,
But
Philosophical,
Your calibrated responses,
Moved
Not one enemy heart,
As for yours,
You had none.

Those attempting to
Tell you that
You were
Mistaken,
Were helpless,
They might as well,
Have been speaking
Sanskrit to you.
For they spoke in terms of
Morality,
of which
You had none.


When you passed,
No one
mourned,
And
As hard as you
Had tried to buy it,
No one,
Gave you
Forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Collision At Sea

“A collision at sea can ruin your entire day” -Thucydides

On a cold night,
At a lonely spot,
In the Middle Sea,
Eight thousand tons of ship,
And another ten times as great,
Came together,
When they should not have.
One exploded,
Burned,
And drifted away,
Whilst the other
Could only watch.
In that collision,
And
In that fire,
Seven men died.
Other men,
Trapped,
Fought that fire.
Yet others,
From other ships,
Came to help,
In what truly was,
A dark,
And stormy night.
Two brave ships,
Smaller yet,
Fought that fire
Alongside
The burning ship.
As the seas
Ground them
Together,
The sound of
Steel on steel,
Rang out.

Later,
As the sun rose,
On calmer seas,
What once had been
A ship,
Was now revealed
A lifeless hulk,
Surmounted by a pile,
Of newly melted slag.

As has been said,
So many times before,
In matters of the sea,
There must always be,
- An accounting.
It has always been,
And ever will be.
And so there was:
Two men,
From that poor ship
That burned,
Were sent ashore,
Forever,
In disgrace.

What of that other ship,
The great ship,
The aircraft carrier,
Lit up that night,
As bright as
Fenway Park,
Lit so deceptively,
That even God could not
Have known,
In which direction
She was traveling?
What of her garbled,
And unintelligible
Messages,
That did so little,
To keep those ships apart?
That did so much,
To bring those ships together
On that fateful night?
A small matter.
It was just OK.

Now,
In spite of all the
- Evidence -
They just buried those
Poor seven sailors,
Fixed that ship,
Though wrecked and
Ruined as she was.
It took four years.
And what we call,
The System,
Closed its books,
And soldiered on,
So to speak,
Blameless,
More or less.

And even now,
22 November has
A double meaning,
To just a few,
Who happen to
Have been there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Supper

Dedicated to the brothers and sisters of the Primitive Baptist Church

Come together,
We do not
Really ask it
Of you
Often,
Just at meeting.
Once or twice a year.
The lord
Must move
Your heart.

We'll bind ourselves
Together,
We faithful remnants,
We'll wash each others'
feet,
Just as was done
That night,
So long ago.
It's a reaffirmation,
With as many
Brothers,
And sisters,
As we can gather
Unto us.

A faithful sister
Has baked
The bread,
Faithful to
The ancient
Recipe,
A faithful brother
Has made the wine,
Just for our purpose.

If you cannot
Be with us,
Send us a letter,
We will feel
The power of
Your faith,
And you
May feel ours.
And when we next meet,
We shall
Rejoice.

Frolicking With Paranoids

There's something to be said,
For spending time
With folk,
Who live in
Beautiful places,
Dumb as they may be.

Real sportsmen prefer
Smart,
Strong,
Browns.
They are the
Trout of trout.
Wicked smart,
But sullen,
Voracious.

The rainbow,
A living sports car,
The Acrobat,
Pure joy
To watch,
And catch,
A showman,
Every one.
Yup,
They're dandy,
And respectable.
As show offs go.

Who would call himself,
A brookie fisherman?
A stalker of dummies?
You'd get
No more respect
Than the fish
You pursue.
Best to keep
Your desires
To yourself.

But in your
Silence,
You learn.
How does a fish,
So dumb,
Survive?
It is the
Purest of
Paranoids.
Stay out of sight,
Stay on your knees,
For if the slightest
Movement,
Comes in view,
You'll see
A rocket,
Head for cover,
Your catch,
In that pool,
Will be nil,
I promise.

But if you should,
By chance,
And guile,
Bring one of these
To hand,
You'll see a fish,
As beautiful
As God has made,
A living work of art,
And so he left them,
In a place,
As beautiful
As they are.

Good luck

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cold Iron Thanksgiving

A Tribute to Senior Chief Gloria

Thanksgiving – 1981,
Bath Maine,
Sitting in a bright blue dry dock,
The cold Kennebec River
Slipping by,
Making miniature whirlpools,
As it passes the ships
Moored upstream,
They're lucky enough
To be moored,
To not be in dock.
They have
Power,
Light,
Heat,
Ventilation,
All the good stuff
You take for granted.
We 're in the dark,
With
The cold,
And,
A few portable
Steam heaters.
There's no one on board
But us,
The duty fire party.
We drew the short straw
This Thanksgiving,
Or volunteered.

It's a day without rank,
You can't see much,
Anyway.
Just the dim light,
From the strings of
The yards work lights
Overhead.
But there's no work today,
She's silent as a tomb,
An unnatural being
Of a ship,
With the echo of
The odd foot fall.
We gather in our only
Safe haven,
The Chiefs' Quarters,
Dimly lit,
Awaiting an equally dim imitation
Of Thanksgiving feasts past.

Right on time,
The cooks arrive,
No doubt with tepid fare.
Their shadows slip in,
Urging us aside
To make room for their pots.
Surprise,
Riding herd is the real boss,
Senior Chief Gloria,
The Food Service Officer himself.
I'd expect him to be home today,
And I'd be wrong.
This is a feeding holiday,
And feeding is his job,
He's out here feeding those who have
The toughest job this day.
I should have known,
For that's the way he is.
He has his giant
Stainless pots
Spread out.
There's paper plates
And plastic forks,
For sure,
But in those pots,
Are all the smells,
As good as you could get at home,
And plenty more for seconds,
Too.
They turn the deep dark bowels
Of a half dead ship,
Into a warm and sweet place,
Full of shipmates glad to be together.
It might not be the best Thanksgiving ever,
But it will be one we will truly remember.

Tuscaloosa April – 2011

- Thoughts On The Tornado Damage -

What hath God wrought,
Indeed?
He hath wrought
Match sticks
Out of houses,
Toys,
Out of trucks.
Orphans,
Out of communities.
We live in a world
Where we prefer our data
Incomplete.
Number of dead
Is sufficient.
How many homes
Gone?
How many school rooms
Gone?
Too numerous to count;
Do the math later.
Let federal aid,
Bring in a parade
Of house trailers,
And grease the parade,
Of those who must leave
Forever,
On a well paved trail of tears.

May our human-kindness know
No bounds.
May we never forget
Our good fortune,
In not seeing
Our own match sticks,
In that sad,
And pathetic scene.
The President came.
He said
“We will never
Forget you.”
How long is “never”
In politician years?
What words could
He use,
That weren't trite,
When we are “devastated,”
If we don't get
Invited to the right
Party?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Walking By The Wall On A Snowy Eve

Unfinished Thoughts

Dedicated to Someone, whose name isn't on the wall; he came home, but it might have been better if he hadn't

There had to be,
Something good,
About being stationed
In Washington.
You could pay
Your respects,
Whenever you wanted,
To the brothers
And sisters,
Who couldn't
Come back,
Alive.
The wall makes its own
Quiet statement.
The small memorials,
Left behind
By friends,
By family,
By lovers,
Make a different kind.
I'm not sure I care.
Behind each name,
Are tears.
That's all I see,
That's all I feel,
The tears
Behind the names.
Perhaps the wall's life
Will end,
Its meaning spent,
When all those tears
Have dried.
When the last mourners
Eyes have closed,
When no one's
Father's name is left
Upon the wall,
What will be
The point of it?

The wall still speaks,
But soon it too,
Will be
As mute
As all those
Mourners.
We may keep it
In repair,
But we will not
Be able to give
Meaning,
To those mute names.
Folk will wander past,
And wonder at
Their meaning,
No longer distracted
By trinkets,
Placed upon the ground,
They'll turn
From that now mute,
And meaningless
Graphite strip,
To gaze upon
Those three sad,
Neglected soldiers,
And wonder why,
We were so odd,
To put the
Real memorial,
Out of the way,
Under the trees.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bath To Newport

The Kennebec,
Winds calm
At sunrise,
Captain Rich
Guides us down,
Past islets,
Light houses,
Beacons,
Shoals,
The slack current
Glistens
Like a mirror.
As the sun
Comes up.
The pilot departs,
And she is
Finally ours
To take home.

By evening,
Green water,
Turns to white,
As it vaults
The bow,
And coats us,
With an icy
Glaze.
By dawn,
Our haze gray
Coat,
Is transformed,
With thirty knot
Streaks of white.
We've gained
Too many
Tonnes.

Florida,
And home,
Must wait.
Tuck into
Newport,
Not a garden spot
In early March,
But a haven,
Still.
A place
To steam
The ice off,
To lose a few
Ugly tonnes,
To wait out
The wind,
To eat without
Having to
Hang on
For dear life,
For a day
Or two,
We'll see how
The weather looks
Tomorrow.
We're in
A world class resort,
In the
Wrong season.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jeddah – 1977

Finally,
A Middle East Port.
An exotic place.
We'd been late,
Delayed
Out of Suez,
We'd rushed
Down the
Red Sea,
To be on time.
All for this.
Anchored in,
Jeddah roadstead,
I've never seen so many
Ships.
Of course,
I'm still young,
But they
Stretch so far,
We're so far out,
We hardly
See land.

The jetties
Are in there,
Somewhere,
In the haze of
Dust.
We send a boat
Ashore
With the XO.
Give him a good
Chart,
A compass,
A Course,
A radio,
Or we may
Never see him,
Again.
We follow him,
In the big eyes,
Two foot long
Binocs,
Until he's
A dot.

The dot returns,
Good news!
No liberty to be
Granted.
They're glad we're
Here,
They think,
But they'd prefer
No sailors in
Their town.
Makes sense;
We'd prefer that,
Too.
All that dust,
On our blues,
You know.

We can't see Jeddah,
But,
Reports suggest
A paradise of
Permissiveness.
No need to build
Your building,
Plumb.
It's optional.
Tired?
Sit down,
Wherever you are,
Just curl up,
Snooze.
It's a different
Place.

Why is it
So crowded?
The Saudis have
Been buying everything.
Everything but
New piers,
For the last
Three years,
Ever since they,
Got real rich,
Instead of just
Rich.
They forgot
To build piers,
To unload
The stuff.

The American
Consulate,
Invites us to
A goat grab.
Yum.
But they want us,
To smuggle
Booze ashore.
They've got none.
Yeah,
Let's kick this
Cruise off with
An international
Incident.
Or,
Let's save our
Energy,
For the next
Middle Eastern
Paradise.
We can sight see,
On deck,
Eyeball liberty.
First priority cargo
Passes.
A small ship,
Bound right for
The pier.
No waiting,
Main deck crowded
With camels.
So,
We can't,
Get ashore,
But
They bring
The atmosphere,
To us.
Jeddah,
How many ways
Could you spell,
“Jewel of The
Red Sea?”
If there
Were one.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Running At Full Power

Sometimes,
The routine,
Economical,
Mandated,
Sixteen knots,
Will not do.
You are directed
To proceed,
At max sustained speed.
And so,
The steam world
Comes alive.
Suddenly,
There are no
Silent spaces.
Every boiler
Is hot,
Every burner
Is in,
Every feed pump
Is on line,
Every fuel pump
Is busy.
Fuel
Is constantly
Transferred.
Everywhere,
There is
Noise,
And heat,
Plenty of heat,
We're makin' lots.
Every topside space,
That lives near
A forced draft blower,
Knows about it,
Because nothing is
Off the line.
That's the way it
Should be,
That's the way,
She was built
To run.
Four boilers,
Superheat,
Two engines,
Two shafts,
Nothing in
Reserve.

Come off watch,
Dead tired,
Climb all the way up,
Up to the fantail,
Nose bleed country,
See the stern lookout,
Look up at
The stacks,
See that heat.
The air shimmers,
It shakes and shivers
As it shoots skyward,
Dyed a faint brown,
In the
Economy haze.
The whole ship
Shakes up here,
You really feel it.
All from the fire,
And the steam that
We make.

Turn around,
That rooster tail,
Is taller than
You are.
Maybe
That's enough
Fresh air.
The guys
Who live up here,
Think we're making
Lots of noise,
They oughta be in
Bravo one,
To hear those
Two boilers
Roar.
THAT'S noise,
AND heat.

Still,
The special effects
Up here,
Are enough
For them.
You want full power?
It's hard work for us,
It's extra watches,
It's no time
For maintenance,
It's our time,
To shine.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Steam World

In memory of the seven men killed in the after fire room explosion in USS Basilone (DD-824) on 5 February 1973

We live in holes,
Each one named,
Bravo One,
Bravo Two,
Bravo Three,
Bravo Four.
There are others,
But none are MAIN,
The rest are AUX.

We work at pressure,
Six hundred pounds,
Eight hundred plus
Degrees,
That's Fahrenheit,
Folks.
People like
To visit
Our world.
Makes them,
Feel special,
They see a world,
They don't dare
Live in,
And they leave,
Before they
Sweat too much.
Come again,
But not too often,
Have a salt tablet.

We're the only sailors,
Who must
Use our gear,
Twenty-four hours
A day.
Try letting the fires
Go out,
In the
Boiler.
See what
Happens.
The girls
Topside,
Would miss their
Movie.
They'd
Be agitated.
Did we use that
Word?
Well,
Have a salt tablet.

We say that,
Down here is where
The real men live,
That all the rest
Are pussies.
It's a lie,
But,
It hides how hard
Life is,
In the
Steam world.

It's six hours
Of watch,
Six hours
Of sleep,
Six hours
Of watch,
Six hours
Of sleep,

Unless, something
Needs fixing,
Or we're
Refueling,
Or, we're getting ready,
To enter port.
Or,
Something else
Is happening,
Then there's
No sleep.
There's no sun
Anyway.
You wanna see
Sun,
Look through
The scope,
At the
Stack gas.

It's a world of
Valves,
And
Burners,
And,
Sight glasses,
And,
Pumps,
And,
Pipes and,
Gauges everywhere.
A new guy
Wonders,
How to learn
Them all.
It's an
Incomprehensible
Forest.
And then,
You get to
Know it.
Now some other guy,
Is the
New guy.

It's often a
Rain forest,
120 degrees,
That's Fahrenheit,
Folks.
95 per cent
Humid,
Since you're visiting,
Come help us
Find
Steam leaks.
But,
Keep your head
Down.
Steam is clear,
You won't
See it,
Before it
Cuts you,
In half.
We'll use brooms
Instead.
Just wave them overhead,
Along the pipes.
Have a salt tablet.

The steam
Snakes all about
The ship.
They need it,
To live.
Not just the
Wake,
But,
Heat,
Light,
Water.
All life
Comes from,
The boiler.
You'd think they'd
Appreciate
Us.

The Navy says,
It's worried about
Our heat stress,
(It's only 120)
And our hearing,
They want us
Out of
The heat,
More often,
Nice.
Who will keep
The lights on?
Maybe they'll
Start a new,
“Program.”
Do the paperwork,
And just
Keep us in
The hole.
We've been down here
So long,
We can't
Hear 'em,
Anyway.
Have another salt tablet,
And go back
To your regular job,
Topside.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Anniversary of The "Return of The Mayflower"

Not Poetic

On this date, in 1917, U.S. Destroyer Squadron 8 arrived off Ireland, and reported for duty on North Atlantic convoy patrol. When Commander Joseph Taussig was asked by his British counterpart how long he would require for refitting after the North Atlantic crossing, Taussig replied, "we are ready now."

Crossing The Line With The Royal Baby

Less than forty shell backs,
One hundred and eighty pollywogs,
Those shell backs have their
Work cut out
For them.

As we approach the line,
The national ensign is struck,
And the Jolly Roger is close up
To the main truck.
Good thing the horizon is
Clear.

Breakfast is served,
For pollywogs who can choke it down.
Is that a hybrid oyster?
Garnished with
Lube oil?
Yum.

You are all guilty!
Here are your summons,
To prove it.
You've offended King Neptune
Somethin' fierce.

Boats – pipe all hands,
“All pollywogs assemble on the foc'sle.”
Who needs that breakfast, anyway?
The lube oil might not have
Aided digestion.

Once on the foc'sle,
We are herded like cattle,
Using fire hoses,
Stay forward of
The firing safety line,
You! Who, me?
Yes, you. You are a
Special case.
I shiver in the
equatorial warmth.
A special case?


We are moved forward,
A few at a time,
It's not enough to fly
The Jolly Roger,
We now show
Two black balls,
A vessel
Not under command,
We are a warship
Run amuck,
Entangled in the,
Equator.

Before His Royal Highness,
KING NEPTUNE,
The charges are *Severe*.
Each is read with
All due solemnity by
Davy Jones,
A one eyed creep,
Who seems to carry
A certain resemblance to,
The Captain.
As each charge is detailed,
The Royal Baby,
Fat, greasy,
(He could be BT2 Skinner's twin)
Mutters “Ahem, of course,
He's guilty you know.”

Davy Jones says that
I look disgusting so,
An unseen hand
Shampoos me with a gob of,
Nice, red, gun grease,
The stuff we use on
The five inch.
They forget the rinse.
The Royal Baby thinks
I've sh-t in my pants,
So King Neptune orders
That nothing should
Spoil down there.
They dump a little
Cosmolene,
In my pants.


King Neptune declares
This Pollywog,
Unworthy,
And orders me thrown
Overboard.
I am blind folded,
Picked up,
Carried up a ladder to
The flight deck,
Tossed head first,
Into a chute,
Full of
Garbage.
Down A slide.
Yup, it's definitely,
Garbage,
Into the water.

Hands grasp my shoulders,
Pull me up,
I guess They didn't throw
Me overboard.
The blind fold comes off.
Two smiling pirates pull me out,
And I'm off to the showers,
And ready for a real meal,
Without lube oil.

Photographing Dogwoods

April is their month.
They've sat,
Patient,
Throughout the winter,
Those sturdy oval buds,
Sometimes cased in ice,
They don't seem
To mind.
Are they
Awaiting,
Tax time?
These jewels,
Keep company with,
Their pretty pink
Cousins,
The Redbud.
Why does the dogwood,
Ask
For our attention,
So?
Perhaps because it
Blooms so early,
When
There is so little else,
To see.
Perhaps it is the legend that,
From the poor dogwood,
Came the wood,
From which was fashioned,
The true cross.
More likely it's just,
The timeless beauty,
Born-in beauty,
From long ago,
Needing no
Adornment,
And not a bit
Of pruning.
Touch it with a knife,
You'll invite,
Disease.
Let it grow
Willy nilly,
It will give you,
Perfect beauty,
On its own.

Wild,
It sits beneath
The forest cover,
Like a craggy,
Wasted twig,
Dwarfed,
By its bigger cousins.
And then,
Before any others,
That slim and subtle
Beauty
First appears,
As an
Exquisite miniature,
Creamy yellow flowers,
That open,
To bleach themselves white,
And show the
Blood red crosses
At their center.

They are
Gems,
That change,
Day by day,
So leave your camera
Home.
You cannot catch
Their beauty.
Instead,
Imprint the view
Upon your mind.
They'll be back
Next year,
More beautiful
Than ever.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Meditation On The Death Of Osama Bin Laden

Gotcha,
Sheik,
It took a while,
But most government
Ops do.
You had a good run,
And died a lion
In many eyes,
Though a caged lion,
In a cage
Of your very own,
Behind walls of your own.
Didn't know
Seals went over walls,
Eh?
I wonder where
Ayman went.
Perhaps it's safe
For him
To go home now.
Inshallah.
I saw the wild celebrations,
Outside the White House,
At Ground Zero,
At the Air Force Academy.
Once we had:
VE day,
VJ day.
We cheered then,
For the dying
Would stop.
What of VO day?
I thought VO was,
A whiskey.
The dying won't stop
For VO day.
What's all the cheering for?
Celebrating the death
Of one enemy?
As if we'd won
A war?
We should feel
Just a little dirty.
Let us thank
Those who did this
Most necessary deed
For us,
Then let us
Go about our business,
And leave them with
Their thoughts.
I think I'll stop by
The old Ebbitt Grill.
Maybe I can find
A chicken hawk,
To have a celebratory
Beer with.
R-I-P if you can,
Sheik,
With the fishes.
There are no virgins
At full fathom five.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dust Storm

We see it first,
North bound
From Abu Dhabi,
Spreading
East and west,
Into the distance,
Gradually embracing us.
At first it seems
It might be,
Fog,
Then,
A fine,
Talc like layer forms,
With tiny swirls,
White stuff,
Scurrying over
Everything.
Shamal.
You remember.
They told you
All about these,
But it looks,
Just like fog,
Until you're
In it.
Then,
To the casual
observer,
Talc,
But to machinists,
Lapping compound,
And to unprotected
Machinery,
Slow death.
We close
All water tight doors,
And hatches.
All intakes
Are covered with
Foam,
But it is
Everywhere.
So fine
You cannot
Feel it.
And it will not
Go away.
Innocent at first,
A man soon wraps
His face,
And eyes,
In self defence.
Though we would be
Safer in the pilot house,
The law,
And safety,
Mandate that
We be able
To hear
A fog signal.
Or would it be,
A dust signal?
We pray that it
Will pass
Before dark,
Lest we be plunged
Into a dust filled,
Flat black,
Void.

Inevitable Disrespect

In memory of the Forrest Sherman Class Destroyers

I understand,
Respect for age,
Is limited,
But in our culture,
Even corpses,
Generally,
Are dressed,
With some,
Respect.
And so,
If you'll excuse,
An old lady,
Who,
I admit,
Is quite,
Worn out,
I'll not complain,
But I'll insist,
In reminiscing.
I'll insist,
You not forget.
For I've been,
Ridden hard,
And often put,
To bed,
Well,
Very wet.
And I deserve,
At least a thought,
Before I die.

I slipped into,
The Kennebec,
On a Maine,
Afternoon,
Cold enough,
To make the
Guests feel,
Well,
Uncomfortable.
But I went in,
On time,
And I looked,
Mighty fine.
And went to work,
A-S-A-P.

I answered every call,
Lebanon,
Formosa,
Cuba.
In Vietnam,
I was special,
I had three guns.
Those poor grunts,
On the ground,
Loved my guns.
My gunners,
Treated them,
Like lovers,
They spat fire,
On call,
And saved lives,
Pushing,
The enemy,
Back,
Way back.

My mess decks,
Fed,
Round the clock.
My sailors worked,
Round the clock,
They stood
Ten thousand
Watches,
They fueled
A thousand
Times.
I never slept.
Even when
My boilers fired,
For six,
Or eight,
Or nine,
Months straight.
And even when,
I finally,
After,
All those months,
Sailed for home,
And went
Cold iron,
I was still
Alive
With steam,
And power,
From shore.

But now,
Some how,
I'm no longer
Even called
A she,
I've lost my USS,
I'm just an
“Ex,”
It once seemed
So important
That,
Each and every
Rust spot,
Be
Blotted out
With paint.
Now there's none,
The rust streaks
Mar my sides.
That's OK.
I understand,
We can't
All be
Museums.
It's your intent,
To sink me.
No doubt
You need
The practice,
But I warn you;
Those Maine Yankees,
Now,
So long retired,
Built me
Well.
I'll go
Quietly,
But plan for,
A long,
Long day.

Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Misch

All rights reserved