From my box of poems.

I wanted to post something today, but my writing arm is idle. So I’ll resort to a rummage among my poems. Here is a storm, still remembered:

Lost Ship

We saw nothing on the wind-glazed surface,
nothing floating in the spume as we steamed
across her last position on the chart;
no scrap of cargo, not a boiler suit,
nor a crumb of last night’s rice.

In the dark we’d talked
in bursts of dots and dashes,
that other man and me.
We’d clung in chairs chained to the deck,
one hand on the tuning knob
chasing each other’s warbling signals
as masts swayed
and phosphor-bronze aerials swung out
wild over the troughs;
the other hand thumping a big brass key –
in the cyclone.

It was sixty years ago – she flew the flag of Pakistan,
a new country. But the ‘Minocher Cowasjee’ was old
I now discover – launched as ‘Parisiana’
by Irvine’s yard in Hartlepool, where my father –
back from his war with Kaiser Bill – might well
have hammered rivets into her, hard against
his own dad’s hammer on the other side of the plate.

Three miles down they’re rusted now, those rivets;
strewn about, forgotten, like Asian mother’s tears.
She’s just another hull – after all,
the ocean floors are flung with ships…

About Harry Nicholson

I once bred Beveren rabbits in all colours. Today, I'm an enameller who works with a kiln, fusing pictures in glass onto copper. On Amazon is my novel, 'Tom Fleck', set in the North of England of 1513 - the year of Flodden. A sequel to 'Tom Fleck' is 'The Black Caravel' published in 2016. My anthology of poems came out in 2015: 'Wandering About.' Recently I published memoirs of my time in the Merchant Navy: 'The Best of Days' and 'You'll See Wonders" I've a blog of poems, stories and art at:
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5 Responses to From my box of poems.

  1. Robin Ellis says:

    Having been on a ship that could not respond to a near by SOS, from a sinking ship, due to hurricane force winds – I found your poem very moving. Thank you.

    • Hello Robin,
      Thankyou for the approval of the poem. There is a back story – I’ve been in touch with the son and grandaughter of the lost radio officer. He is in Singapore and she is in Brisbane, Australia. Her family had no knowledge of that night, apart from the shipping agents report, and were moved by what I could tell them.

  2. Glad you came by and very happy you shared this. Be well.

  3. Yes, Ina, I’d be very happy for you to use the poem, I’ve a couple more sea poems in the sea chest, that you might not have seen.. I’ll visit your page later – got to go out now, up to Teesside in the rain … shopping . . . But maybe we will look at the Tees Barrage; last time there I saw a seal catching salmon at the bottom of the fish ladder.

  4. Ina says:

    Hi Harry,

    this poem is wonderful To hear morse signals (or radio messages) of those on sinking ships is heartbreaking. A few years ago everyone here on the island could hear the last calm, accepting words of a captain of a sinking vessel just norht of the island, he knew he was not going to survive. Something I shall never forget.

    I have been on several ships that later ended as a wreck. (Inkabir, Leliegracht)

    I would love to have this posting on my Poetry of the Sea blog. Is that okay? Best wishes for your idle arm!

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