Poem: Ghost Ship

I think I am finally reaching the end of this poem. Soon. . .

Beneath the stormy waves the ghost ship plunged.
It out of sight, we hoped she was now done,
and quick was our attention wrest that night
with awful weather we forgot that sight.
And yet the truth: the ship forsook us not,
but under raging seas it passed un-fraught.
It under our small boat did sailing come
while we above did fight to save our rum.
To keep the demons’ drink from devils’ sea
the crew, doomed men, performed most valiantly.

You rumrunners who in the night’s reproach
poison deliver to the decent folk:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

The storm abated once three men were lost.
The third, once falling in the waves that tossed,
did quell the fury of that mystic gale,
but killed the wind. And thus went slack our sail,
putting an end to this: our raft’s swift flight.
The fog, dreadful and thick, rolled in that night.
We struck a light for that dim lantern’s glow,
and thus we came to learn of our deep woe.
In terror cried the men of rippling shoals.
‘Twas to the rudder, else to lose our souls.

You rumrunners who in the night’s dark depths
your rum you run and poor weak hearts affect:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

A breadth of hair was all we could create
between ourselves and such disastrous fate
of running ground within this cloudy bank,
gutting our hull before we doomed men sank.
But missing bubbling ocean’s shallow broth
all eyes then turned to see the raging froth.
A mind afraid that tried to pierce the dark,
and what I saw I was declined to hark:
Its form was gone before my thoughts were born,
it veiled in mists, the ghost ship, I’d have sworn.

O rumrunners that only sail disguised,
a source of pain to those whom you despise:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

Methinks me saw it rising from the blue,
the deep adorned in somber blackish hue,
its forward bow upturned to pierce the sky,
her splashing sails making salt water fly.
Those shoals we thought a rudder would avoid
was merely how that slaver’s galley toyed
with us her chosen prey in winter’s cold.
At least I thought before the fog in rolled.
Thus veiled I chide myself for foolish fears,
thereby ignoring splashing I could hear.

O rumrunners sailing when all else sleep,
who tempt men from the promises they’d keep:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

But splish and splash we hear her ghostly oars
beating the water, yet our crew ignores
foretelling signs of time’s unfolding course,
and of those sounds forget the frightful source.
Now with sail slack we drifting smugglers
slowly careen as fruitless strugglers.
Now cursing Devil and his firebrand
then pleading saints entreat with wrenching hands,
we sow our fortune in this cont’ry way:
beseeching any who over fate holds sway.

Dear rumrunners who pray with cursing lips,
wishing thyself and cargo safely ships:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

No wind would come to aid us in our need,
nor would the sky with treasures thereby lead
to harbors safe and buyers’ ready cash.
Bemoaning this sad state I spy a flash,
and through the fog it shines like a lit match.
With anxious, peering eyes I try to catch
some sight of this strange, softly glowing orb.
The light a shadow casts on our starboard:
a manly form, to us sailors well known,
a crewmen lost to sea, one of our own.

Dear rumrunners divested of your luck,
who with familiar spooks are sudd’nly struck:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

Out of the shadow’s mouth a pipe protrudes:
the outline of our own, late Mister Hues,
who was last seen devoured by dark waves.
It now upon our beating hearts engraves
a marring terror, freezing cold our blood,
while drifting helplessly through this world’s flood.
Upon the implement the light descends,
and suddenly the obscuring fog rends.
We see through it lost Hues before a man,
a tall en-cloaked figure, the ship’s captain.

Lost rumrunners locked in hopeless toil
who never will again see the soil:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

The captain lit Hues’s ivory pipe,
and in that glinting flare we saw a stripe:
The captain’s face in shadows featureless
was cut across by thin reflectiveness.
A cruel smile all we sailors could spy,
nothing of chin nor lips nor nose nor eyes.
He was only shadows with sharpened teeth.
Hues muttered something rather short and brief.
The captain flicked his wrist and killed the match,
and thus he from our sight the vision snatcht.

Lost rumrunners running from deadly waves,
fleeing a ghostly ship hungry for slaves:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

He snuffed the match and laughed a bitter laugh.
Then waxed the fog so I could see but half
our ship through thickly growing atmosphere.
So over our small vessel icy fear
like rain descended, pelting the ship’s crew
who dumbly stood waiting as silence grew.
The lamp flickered; we all our breath in took
holding ‘til our beleaguered craft was shook.
In sudden stormy waves our hull was tossed.
The dying light went out; we all were lost.

Doomed rumrunners destined to wat’ry graves
who yearn to see sun dancing on waves:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

We rocked and swayed while voices screamed in need.
The crew’s lamenting, begging tones thus plead
in final desperate strait, calling for me,
their captain, save them from bedeviled sea.
But what could this mere man hope to achieve
when facing off against oceans aggrieved.
Immortal powers hungered for our souls,
conspiring to drag us to Sheol.
They called for help until their crying ceased,
the silence bearing witness they’re deceased.

Doomed rumrunners lost battling the seas,
your paths now ended without rest nor peace:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

And so abandoned on my ship was I;
alone, no longer hearing my crew cry
except it were in some unhallowed way,
their shades calling to me from out of th’grave.
Unstilled, she hungered yet unsatisfied
by wanton act—barbaric filicide—
the sea raging, though all I had she stole,
the only parts were left, my boat and soul.
Then I prayed to my Father, whom I feared
that to His home heavenly I’d be steered.

Dead rumrunners, lacking no mean virtue,
this warning heed, advice given to you:
beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

The sky tore not asunder nor the mist
retreating let me pass its shaded midst;
no way my eyes saw opened by my God,
no miracle perceived and mortal awed.
But all that came, in my affliction heard:
rid hull of rum commands the holy word.
To ocean-swallowed men I rum commend;
the damn-ed drink to hell thus I resend:
I hack the ropes binding the barrels down.
Along the heaving deck they roll around.

Dead rumrunners, my crew sinking below,
receive this gift to aid you through your woe.
Beware, sailors, the ghost ship in your wake;
beware, good men, the paths that you now take.

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