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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.

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