Diane Hine (25 July 1956)
Ships defy the keen Atlantic,
slipping through in armoured skins.
But open wounds rouse hunger pangs
for metal and soft parts within.
An iceberg gouged the 'Prate's' port flank.
The probing sea consumed her frame.
A slice of deck, her mighty stacks
and two abandoned souls remained.
The Captain scanned the starry sky
but Mrs Petty looked distraught.
She glanced around and asked him why
the waves were sheets of bobbing corks.
He told her that the ‘Prate' had freight
including corks from Portugal
and virgin olive oil from Spain.
Such cargo was unsinkable.
Some hessian sacks popped into view
and crates of oil meandered by.
Then all at once the Captain knew
that on that day they might not die.
He battled waves for sacks of corks,
their necks drawn tight with braided string,
and fought the water's whirlpool torque
To reach the dancing oil crate ring.
He tied two crates with his leather belt
and knotted sacks to this device.
Mrs Petty could not help,
but offered plentiful advice.
The Captain hopped aboard the raft
and Mrs Petty clambered on.
The ocean swallowed, belched and laughed
and then the good ship ‘Prate' was gone.
The cork provided insulation
from the cutting cold beneath.
They sipped an olive oil libation-
warmth for blood and chattering teeth.
She asked his name and he dissembled.
Grudgingly, he owned to Bryce.
She said, as far as she remembered,
she'd been christened Edelweiss.
The frigid night was warmly plied
with fine debate and mindless tattle.
Dawn brought their salvation by
the 'Prate's' fair sister ship, the ‘Prattle'.
The Captain saw as they drew near
that Hope stood at the rails above.
She waved and shed a grateful tear
and naturally they fell in love.
The drawing room was holly decked
and smelt of Christmas tree and spice.
The 'Prattle's' Captain wed the pair
and Mrs Petty tossed the rice.
As wedding gift, she gave a doily,
found in her pocket and sadly frayed;
mainly white, but slightly oily,
crocheted on the 'Prate's' last day.
After lunch on Christmas Day,
aboard the sterling steamship ‘Prattle',
Hope and Mrs Petty played
at harmless dice, genteelly rattled.
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Comments about this poem (Cruising 3* by Diane Hine )
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