Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.” —W.H. Auden
The following is based on a true story that happened to me years ago, when I first started fishing. It’s a story about a fire onboard a fishing boat and the loss of my Captain and friend.
Parting With My Friend
You were just twenty-one years into this uncertain experience we call life.
It seems you were the carefree type, not too beholding to strife.
You laughed a lot, and it was a sincere laugh from deep down.
Hardly a soul could say with truth, they ever saw you frown.
I was less than sixteen years away from my time of birth,
But still you saw something in me I didn’t; you saw my worth.
What you saw encouraged you to ask me to be your fishing mate.
That asking told me that in your eyes I was none other than first rate.
The silent and complementary assurance didn’t go unnoticed by me,
For I saw you as one of the best young captains ever to follow the sea.
We were fishermen’s sons and both born into the trade,
T’was our inheritance and at our birth the decision was already made.
We were brought up to the sea and both understood it so good,
But your extra years allowed you to understand better than I could.
You were so filled with ambition and vigor that fateful night in May
As you woke me from my sleep in such a hurry to get under way.
Your boat was waiting and seemed eager to be loose from its tether,
As though it sensed your eagerness brought on by the fine weather.
It was a calm, cloudless, star-filled and moon-lit night
As we climbed aboard your boat unaware of our soon-to-be plight.
The engine started and eagerly pushed its exhaust into the night.
Everything seemed perfectly normal and working nearly right.
Except the lights looked more yellow than they should
Neither of us paid them much heed, hurrying as much as we could.
I released the mooring and you backed into the tide,
Then you shifted to forward and opened the throttle wide.
The engine responded and reached for its top speed,
Suddenly it coughed and stopped, which was alarming indeed.
I heard the concern in your voice as you pushed the button to start,
But this time the battery and its charge had grown too far apart.
The starter clicked and groaned but the battery was too low,
It needed to be changed and quickly; there was no time to be slow.
One needs a grasp of the tidal currents to understand why this was so,
Through Petite Passage some of the world’s strongest currents flow.
A boat in distress in this beautiful but powerful tidal place
Trying to avoid the rocky shore would soon lose the race.
The battery cables being disconnected the already dim lights went out.
Complete darkness flooded your working area as I heard you shout,
“There’s a box of matches on the bulkhead; hand it to me!”
Soon there was light flickering from a match and you could see.
The cables connected, the boat flooded in light once more,
You waved the match out and dropped it to the floor.
But the flame had bonded with the match and didn’t go out,
It mixed with leaked gasoline and soon engulfed the whole boat.
We were brought up on the sea and we both did know
That it can turn in an instant from smooth friend to raging foe.
We had no choice that night but to trust it would remain our friend,
It did so for me but to you its friendship came to an end.
All throughout my years since, I’ve puzzled over that part,
I’ve searched my thoughts and repeatedly asked my heart.
I’ve heard it said, before we enter this life we decide when we’ll leave,
And the events of that long ago night have helped me believe.
There was no difference, we both had the same chances to survive,
For some reason the sea pulled you into its depths and left me alive.
Then again, I don’t think our fate was at the discretion of the sea,
I truly believe our own decisions made the difference between you and me.
That being said, before I bring this story to its end,
I feel inclined to mention something else, maybe a greater Friend.
During all the life-and-death struggles that fateful night,
For some reason I’ve been unable to explain, I felt not one bit of fright.
Fear wasn’t an option, I was being cared for better than I had ever been.
I’ve realized that over the years, as I’ve looked back upon the scene.
I also had not one bit of doubt that I was going to be okay,
Something I’ve never been able to explain to this very day.
I’ve often heard there’s Guardian Angels watching over you and me.
As I look back to that night so long ago and other happenings on the sea,
I’m reassured that their presence is not a fable but real to the very end.
I doubt not they were with me, and also with you, my departed friend.
Thank you for visiting this site. I am truly grateful.
“Love is your safety. Fear does not exist. Identify with love, and you are safe. Identify with love, and you are home. Identify with love, and find your Self.” –ACIM
“Veganism is believing that an animal’s life is worth more than a sandwich. That’s it! That’s how simple it is.” –The Spiritual Vegan
If anyone ever doubts your soul is in your writing of poetry they must see it here. I am in tears. Moving and gutwrenching story sharing and to learn how young you were at the time, so fearless and strong. I hope you write more about life at sea in later years. I would love to read about it. Thank you.
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Thank you so much! Your beautiful & encouraging comment is truly appreciated.
Walter your poem was extraordinary. It touched my heart in more ways then I could ever explain. What an experience you had at such a young age. I am sure this event changed your life and helped you to become the soul you are with so much wisdom and talent in poetry.
Thank you for your lovely comment. I truly appreciate it.