Sunday, February 13, 2011

BURRARD INLET SHIPS








At a window overlooking water -- container ships
and bulk carrier ships lying at anchor
framed in front of us. They’re always there,
I hear a voice say. As if the ships were the same ships
that sat there twenty-four or forty-eight hours ago.
As if, in the middle of the night, the ships did not
arrive and drop anchor at exact latitudes and longitudes. 
And tugboats did not come and bring the ships to dock,
and other ships not arrive and take the first ships’ places --
in the middle of the night. As if the ships were not
emptied of what they brought here and loaded up again
while the ships’ sailors took their hours’ shore leave
to go to a bank, visit a doctor, talk with a priest,
buy a blouse or bracelet for a woman back home.
As if, between sundown and dawn, the ships did not depart.
And every two or three days, a new ship and new crew
did not sit at each terminal wharf. As if it was not
now a new ship visible outside the window.
All night, out on the water, the ships’ horns send out
sound signals for the ships’ arrivals and departures,
and all night, in inlet-filling fog, the ships’ horns
send out long blasts, long repeating notes -- accompaniment
to the circuit of sleep in the houses along the shore.
New ships and crews come, new products are brought
from faraway locales, and new loads of coal, sulphur,  
lumber and wheat are taken to faraway locales.
All night, when gulls come up from the inlet
through cloud and rain, gull after gull takes up
the same insane-sounding cry of unfathomable
emergency in a wilderness of water, and circles with the same
single message that seems wound and unwound
as on a wire anchored somewhere unknown to any gull
in the inlet circling and circling through its tides.
All night, the outsized ships come and go -- all night.
As if they were not, each of them, the same ship powering
over the glowing deep blue water-globe. As if the voice
at this window had not been with me all along,
waiting inside my hearing. As if it was not
the voice of one more myself than I can know.
As if this one’s home had not always been here
where he could see an anchor place and hear gulls.
As if he had not always returned here. As if he would not
say of the ships he saw, They’re always there.

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