Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Jimmy caught the smell of oil in the store,

Remembered the night
off Savo Island,

When his 'can took one unseen amidships
and he fell into the fire and water,

His hands failing above him
out of the water
and into the fire,
to splash the oil away

kicking up to take a heated breath
then down again
until he could not stay
then up again to breathe.

Calm, like they taught him

Once the fire caught him and he burned,
the scar's still there.
Misshaping an ear.

A bald patch in an old man's thinning hair.

But you can't tell where his hands had burned.

Calling out
He can't hear himself
over the roar if the fire
and the sound of metal
from Bethlehem
rending as the sea claims another ship,

He feels the tug
towards the doomed
and descending
as she starts her last voyage
to Iron Bottom Sound,

he kicks away
and swims

from his home for the last 2 years
for safety,

feeling her
pull him with her

a mother not wanting to let go
as she takes
her other boys away with her

Alone now,
less fire
more stars,
he calls into the darkness
and hears

A voice,

he finds Tony
from the radio room
they hold each other,
then separate
the better to try and float.

Together in silence, they tread,
Afraid to speak,
As if giving voice to it
will make it any more so,

The loss,

The water.

The waiting

The silence

Tired now,
it must have been about 5
The eastern sky starting to pinken.
when he felt a nudge

Then Tony was pulled under
A second,
an eternity
and Tony bobs back,

Eyes wide,

Face pale

"Oh Jimmy"
was all he said

then he disappeared again
and the water turned red,

now he screams

now he thrashes

there is no training for this,
no Chief can teach you how to die,

he swims

faster then ever,

faster then the time he beat his older cousin
across the pond back home.
A thousand miles and a hundred years away.

He strikes his head,
and he grasps wood,

Pulls himself on to
a table from the mess,

or did it find him?
Pushed by an benevolent angel,
Into his flight

Climbing up

it turns under him,

Pitching him to the water again,

he pulls the table over onto him

Now he fights
to get out from under
it's crushing weight,
holding him under.

finally he's on,
afraid to move

And huddles,
holding himself.

In the center
farthest away from all sides.
From the water

They found him like that,
Rescued him,
And others

enough so they didn't have to write
"Lost with All Hands"

He looks up
the others are watching,

He mutters an excuse and leaves

The bell above the door signaling his departure.

"What's eating him?"

The owner didn't know,

He'd seen the look before
Worn it himself

but didn't understand Jimmy

After all

Jimmy had just been in the Navy

Jimmy hadn't been there in the Ardennes

The night the tigers came out of the snow.

-C. Dawson 2005


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