Impact, p.3

Impact, page 3

 

Impact
 


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  * * *

  SAFEKEEPING

  Even though they’d both watched rats

  scurry across the deck,

  Edward Lockyer somehow convinced

  Emily Badman that he’d be okay,

  that she should enter a lifeboat,

  for he would see her later

  and could even take her eyeglasses

  for safekeeping.

  Months later, when opening a parcel,

  Emily felt as if she’d seen a ghost

  for when Edward’s mother received

  the personal effects found on her son’s body,

  she unwittingly kept his promise

  and mailed off Emily’s eyeglasses,

  intact though questionably

  no worse for wear.

  * * *

  THOMSON BEATTIE

  Though his family understood

  the ocean’s give and take

  as well as anyone,

  it was hard for them

  not to sense

  divine retribution

  for when a passing ship discovered

  Thomson Beattie’s body

  one month after the sinking,

  it happened near the spot

  eighty-two years to the day

  where his grandmother

  gave birth to his mother

  as she crossed the Atlantic

  in search of a better life.

  * * *

  THE BALANCE

  Although the band played on,

  their paycheques stopped

  the second the water swept

  over the bow.

  One family received an invoice

  for the balance owing

  on their loved one’s uniform,

  which startled them

  as they believed

  they’d already paid so much.

  * * *

  THE ROLLING PIN

  Salvaged from a block of wood,

  a banister perhaps, or something from First Class

  found floating amongst the bodies,

  Third-Engineer J.A. O’Brien sanded it

  smooth as a newborn baby

  so sometimes his wife would cradle

  or press it to her face.

  Although no one would dare mention it,

  while watching her from behind

  it seemed as if she were rowing,

  her arms muscling over the dough,

  her pie crusts heavenly,

  light as air.

  * * *

  THE SOUND OF DROWNING

  Most survivors will tell you

  it can’t be explained,

  the horror when the lights went out,

  when nothing was left but voices.

  One survivor spent a lifetime trying to forget

  everything he’d heard that night—

  he moved to the Midwest, replaced the ocean

  with plains, a neighbouring baseball field,

  but each time the home team cracked one out of the park

  he’d think of the lifeboats, the iceberg,

  the screams.

  * * *

  J. BRUCE ISMAY

  Had he not cancelled the planned extra lifeboats

  in favour of additional deck space

  and a less encumbered view,

  had he heeded the ice warnings

  and not pushed the Captain

  for a speedy maiden voyage,

  had he not taken a seat

  when offered

  especially with so many stuck below,

  had he not holed himself up

  in a private cabin

  on the rescue ship

  while other survivors

  crowded together

  forced to grieve in public,

  perhaps history

  would not have been

  so unkind,

  and the whispers

  that followed him

  ubiquitous.

  VI. Discovery

  THE DEBRIS FIELD

  In some areas it seems perfect for a picnic—

  a sandy blanket, dozens of unbroken plates,

  cutlery sparkling like it was buffed

  with a napkin or long skirt.

  Down here the water is so cold and heavy

  time stands still—

  even the cheese wheels are edible

  and the wine is still as fine

  as it was that final night.

  * * *

  EIGHT INCHES APART

  Researchers soon determined that micro-organisms disliked

  the tannic acid that finished brown leather,

  so while they ate away at buttons, satchels, and shoes

  from darker goods, they ignored the browns

  as if they were stubborn children

  determined to reject their vegetables.

  While his colleagues marvelled at the realization

  of brown leather everything

  one researcher wondered why all the shoes

  appeared in pairs, and always eight inches apart.

  Later, they realized organisms had erased

  every sign of existence—the flesh, hair, bone and clothes—

  save for a few pieces of jewellery and a pair of shoes

  resting the natural distance

  between the feet of a prone human body—

  eight inches apart, four miles below the surface.

  * * *

  FAIRVIEW CEMETERY, HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA

  At first it seems like any other cemetery,

  a well-kept lawn, granite tombstones,

  an unpaved driveway and the crunch of gravel

  as the car slows down before a sign:

  T I T A N I C

  as if the ship were buried here too,

  a Viking funeral.

  This is where the City of Halifax laid to rest

  many of the bodies unclaimed

  from the impromptu morgue

  at the Mayflower Curling Club,

  where tourists take photographs

  for vacation albums and young girls

  leave panties and love notes

  for the crewman with a name similar

  to the character played by DiCaprio.

  Some graves have only numbers,

  the Atlantic pickpocketed the wallet

  or purse that would have identified them.

  Most are from second and third class,

  their families unable to afford

  the boat or train trip home.

  A hundred years later,

  people still bring wreaths, flowers

  that survive through snowstorms,

  year after year,

  spring’s first green accompanied

  by plastic pink and frosted yellow.

  * * *

  THE LAST SURVIVOR

  One-hundred years later,

  the final Titanic child now buried,

  how strange that the last survivor

  is the Titanic herself.

  Some day even she will dissolve

  into a golden treacle of rust

  until all that remains

  is her memory,

  a story to hand down

  through generations.

  Note on the Text

  My thanks to the authors, directors, and historians whose works inspired this book. In particular, I’d like to mention Walter Lord, the author of the seminal Titanic text, A Night to Remember, for his book started my lifelong interest in the ship and her many stories.

  Thanks also to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for its respectful displays, including the rolling pin that inspired my poem of the same name; and to the City of Belfast and its numerous historical sites and museums. It’s true she was alright when she left there.

  The poems from the section entitled “Voices” are found poems derived from quotes or the writings from the survivors whose names are used in the titles. The Violet Jessop poem is com
prised of lines taken from Titanic Survivor: The Newly Discovered Memoirs of Violet Jessop Who Survived Both the Titanic and the Britannic Disasters.

  Thank Yous

  Thank you to the following journals for publishing many of these poems, sometimes in early versions: Antigonish Review, Contemporary Verse 2, The Fiddlehead, Grain, and PRISM international.

  Thanks also to Lorna Crozier and George McWhirter, whose passion and support were invaluable during my studies with them.

  Thanks also to the BC Arts Council Scholarship program for its assistance; to the Writers’ Trust of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts for their support of the Berton House writers’ residency in Dawson City, Yukon, where I had the pleasure to work on this collection; and to Kwantlen Polytechnic University for travel funds that allowed me to visit Belfast and Southampton.

  This book could not have been written without the editorial (h)ear(t) and the friendship of Sheri-D Wilson.

  Thanks to Craig Moseley, Michael V. Smith, Ivan E. Coyote, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Daniel Zomparelli, and the late Matt Davy. I am blessed to have met you all.

  Thank you to the fine folks at Arsenal Pulp Press.

  About the Author

  Born in Halifax and raised in Langley, BC, Billeh Nickerson is the author of the poetry collections The Asthmatic Glassblower and McPoems. He also authored the humour collection Let Me Kiss It Better, and is co-editor of Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets. He performs frequently at literary festivals across Canada and teaches creative writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver.

  IMPACT: The Titanic Poems

  Copyright © 2012 by Billeh Nickerson

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any form by any means—graphic, electronic, or mechanical—without the prior written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may use brief excerpts in a review, or in the case of photocopying in Canada, a license from Access Copyright.

  ARSENAL PULP PRESS

  Suite 101, 211 East Georgia St.

  Vancouver, BC

  Canada V6A 1Z6

  arsenalpulp.com

  The publisher gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council for its publishing program, and the Government of Canada (through the Canada Book Fund) and the Government of British Columbia (through the Book Publishing Tax Credit Program) for its publishing activities.

  Photograph on frontispiece by Henry W. Clarke, Chief Engineer of Southampton Docks, courtesy of the Vancouver Maritime Museum

  Printed and bound in Canada

  Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication:

  Nickerson, Billeh, 1972-

  Impact [electronic resource] : the Titanic

  poems / Billeh Nickerson.

  Electronic monograph in PDF and ePub formats. Issued also in print format.

  ISBN 978-1-55152-443-6

  1. Titanic (Steamship)--Poetry. I. Title.

  PS8577.I32I56 2012a C811'.6 C2012-900502-9

 


 

  Billeh Nickerson, Impact

 


 

 
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