Asterisk

Tonight is the 102nd anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic – and the incredible loss of life that involved. I don’t as a general rule post my own work here but I began this on the centenary and it’s taken me a full two years to get it to this version. Just wanted to share it as my own commemoration. May peace and rest be with all those touched by the disaster.

Asterisk

What makes a nation great? A time, a place, or scale?

Chiron’s workshop reconstructed, imagined furnaces that worked

to make the hardest substances malleable. Massive cranes seen

against the city skyline out into the harbour are a constant reminder.

Stories told of enough rivets to make the helix of a glittering galaxy –

diamond sequins in a debutante’s spotless gown.

There is a line, when crossed, that changes work from labour

to a symbol of pride to all involved. We can say ‘I was part of it’

and being part of that dream of something great gives life meaning.

 

I first encountered it at Cobh, then known as Queensland,

looking across the water with no view of anything beyond here.

Transatlantic voices calling back through time – inviting me over.

A little after Easter with all its promise of rise not failure.

The groups of keening relatives on the quayside distracted

by being part of the legend that takes away their loved ones.

On her way to embark an ageing Irish lady loses

her rosary, knows that it is an omen. Even before

the ship pulls out into open water her empty hands grieve

for the missing line of white beads she longs to cling to.

A silence at Ellis Island. The panic of those who have booked

their passage on the return voyage who must wait now

for new arrangements to traverse those same straits

or, in their terror, face the prospect of never again coming home.

 

Cold is the final force to be reckoned with. A calm, clear night at sea,

white wall obscured by the darkness, the stars visible to those

who have strength to look up from their strips of crafted interior.

The pain passes quickly into numbness, that last flash

of supernatural heat and then slumber. A jug being filled

from a barrel of water gains weight, buoyancy is lost –

ship and people go down to the bottom of the ocean.

 

On the ocean floor it rests – the fabled Titan of the sea –

held down by the weight of water, battered by its currents.

Rusticles, one-by-one, have built a kind of museum case around it.

Queues are discouraged from forming here in case

they hasten nature’s continuing work of decomposition.

 

*

Asterisk – a water molecule – how many of these

does it take to make ice? Or an iceberg – blue white –

adrift in a place between Arctic and thaw?

A further rise in temperature and it is no longer.

 

*

Asterisk – a rust particle, amongst a community

of microbes and bacteria, bound together to form

what looks like an icicle, except instead of holding fast

they are working towards disintegration.

 

*

Asterisk – white, star-shaped, intermittent

in the vertical lines of passenger names listed

in an exhibition at the Down County Museum.

The legend says these indicate

those who survived the disaster.

 

 

Olive Broderick 2012/2014

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