Deckhands and Shipwrecks, Poetry and Tragedy

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Sunset over the Manitous, Lake Michigan. Photo by K. Bigger

Sunset over the Manitous, Lake Michigan. Photo by K. Bigger

Chicora, Phoenix, and Waldo

Morgan kindly offered us the opportunity to provide a few more of her poems here:

CHICORA, 1895
Lake Michigan

Cups and plates spilled
into the lake, a terrible clattering
lost among splitting timbers.

The fury was so great
it exceeded sound, numbed
the ears of a coal passer,

who paused, mute on the tilted deck,
and spotted the dishes in torrent and foam.
They looked as though they were soaking

in soap suds. A dipper from a gravy bowl
spinning on the surface, cream
from a milk crock swirling in liquid

as dark as the sky. Some men
he knew had already tasted it –
were sinking beneath a new milky way.

PHOENIX, 1847
Lake Michigan

Lifeboats drop from davits
with the sort of recklessness
only known during disaster.

Seven passengers climb in one boat,
banging shins, scraping knees.
Water breaks over the gunnels.

The oars are lost. Women are trying
to paddle with the palms of their hands.
The boat is bobbing. Men are shouting.

One man from Wisconsin
sculls with a broom,
sweeping the immensity of the lake

over and over again,
as though he might make it
to a beach, a dry expanse

where he will brush away the prints
of plovers and write his name in the sand.
Prove he is alive.

WALDO, 1913
Lake Superior

The passengers have made a fire
in the captain’s bath tub
and are gathered around it,
eating tinned peaches with their fingers.

After they burn the legs of the wash stand,
and after the tinned fruit is gone,
few things remain
to tether them to this world:

One door to the pilot house,
ripped from its hinges
by three deckhands.
One life jacket,

which sits like the last peach
no one will eat.
One megaphone
a woman holds quietly in her lap

like a sleeping baby.
She strokes it gently,
as though silencing a wild holler
hiding inside.

Poems (c) Cindy Hunter Morgan.

Great Lakes shipping. Photo by Cindy Hunter Morgan (edited)

Great Lakes shipping. Photo by Cindy Hunter Morgan (edited)

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