A Creative Response to My Work

Powder Boy

 

His wooden universe,                                                

cold and damp,                                              

slips out of indigo waters                                           

by way of kinder wind                                  

and a sun more amiable                                  

than one framed by sextant                                       

at noon over the Atlantic.                                          

 

He is cherry cheeked,                                                 

no longer a pale palette of infancy.                            

Yet there remains                                           

the shimmer of innocence                              

on smooth arms and legs,                                           

a virginal epaulette                                                     

of battle experience.                                                   

 

He is the audience                                                      

not the storyteller;                                                      

a greedy voyeur of manhood                         

and war—that thing they call Action—                     

in the glorious West Indies.                                                   

 

The captain, his god,                                                  

has replaced Mother,                                      

leaving only a tendril of memories                             

to seep into a stubborn conscience                 

like irksome water through the caulking

when rain falls.         

 

He steals moments                                                     

in the topgallant crosstree,                             

soars with canvas kites,                      

contemplates clear horizons,                                      

and considers that Destiny                            

just might lie between these white beaches               

to promote and reward him as Midshipman,

or some far-off day, perchance,

an officer’s post.

 

His peers, cutthroat educators,

sport splinter and shrapnel scars

far more impressive

than the trace burns

on his small hands

from simple gunnery practice.

 

Hungry for initiation,

it arrives so long after expectations

that he is fearless and invincible

when the call to stations comes.        

 

Heart pounding courage into him,

the seductive scent of slow match,

and a grip on his innards

(That heavy fist of hard-weeviled biscuit),

he cheers when he sees her,

The Indomitable, 80 guns,

take the first broadside from his party.

 

He knows in the instant

his vision is clouded by heavy smoke,

ears deafened by thunderbolts of iron,

that he will forever tarry here

under pennants and sunsets,

until his hammock and round shot

are the last arms to cradle and pull him

gently down into the emerald deep.

 

 

Danielle Thorne


Image: The Boys of 1812 and other naval heroes (1887)