Warm Transit

by Will Carpenter

Inbound for
late night docking at Gibraltar,
the Empire’s last bastion whose name
means Tarik’s Mountain—Jebel al Tarik,
its Arab name corrupted by generations
of English spoken slowly and clearly—
standing across the bay from Algeciras,
our early afternoon’s warm destination with its
sunlit Moroccan mint tea shops on
Andalusian soil, standing gritty and
independent as a Spanish home for freight and
ships and wayward humanity
mostly bound for Tangier:
you envy them the sunlight you
left there as you double the lines
and wait for the British morning.

A Thousand Fathoms

"It’s past the chart's ten fathom curve, where charts
once said that Dragons swam, where men once lost
protection of their God and Mother Church
and entered worlds not fit for men of faith:
The open sea, the Deep; demanding more
but giving more to those who dare to test
its grace. The seabed drops six thousand feet,
a thousand fathoms down beneath the keel
or more and on its surface we find peace
we’ve found since man first put to sea,”
the Master said. “Explorers, ne'er-do-wells
and folk of every stripe: the rich, the poor,
those on the run or running from the land
they couldn't tolerate, to hide where shades
of superficial imperfection fade,
all scoured and washed away at last by brine.
“We’re underway and making way,” he said,
“untied from Mother Earth and running toward
a life misunderstood by most, although
we knew our place before our time and fought
our way to sea by hook or crook and now
we live to do without those shore-bound ways
of doing things that never worked at sea.
For us, our hope’s to stay at sea and wait
until we’ve served our time--and time it is;
we love it but we’re here so long we hate
it like we hate the thought of being here no more--
and then we hang around the Union Hall
in hopes they call our name to go again.”

Our War

This isn’t our war to talk about or write about
they say: our war was long ago and farther away.
We buried our dead and built a Wall to separate
us from them, but I wonder now if these newly dead
aren’t already friends with our old friends,
the classmates and the children we once knew;

if they talk about the things they did
and who they were before they went to war and
drew blood or spent life, barely separated from
the rambling childhood they relished; if they remind
themselves of who they should have been
or what they became instead.

©2005 Will Carpenter
[email protected]

Will Carpenter lives in middle Tennessee with his domestic partner and three formerly feral cats. A retired shipmaster, he began writing when she told him to “find something to do and stop fidgeting around the house.” This is his first published poetry.