Flightless

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Imagine her arrival at this San Diego quay –
steaming out of myths, her pennants blazing,
about to take her place alongside her history.

Listen, as her engines cool – for hours
the silence spreads, reverberates around
her emptiness: her hangars, bridges, flight deck,

bays for ordnance; her fuel tanks, cables,
pipes for steam and orders; her messes, cabins,
kitchens, chapel, fridges; the echoes in her bilges.

Now pointlessness persists like memory.
She has become a giant shell – listen.
you might just hear a rumour of the sea.

She’s now equipped for heritage and peace,
and takes the patient lines of tourists
with website tickets, cellphones, sneakers.

Old navy men command, shepherding
where once a reprimand might come.
The naval life flows in their words;

Reminds a world of duty, service,
watches; of storemen, cooks, and medics;
of ranks, technicians, engineers;

of chaplains, ensigns, rocketeers, of men
who feel the sea beneath their feet,
and boys who miss their girls and mothers

in their sleep. And so the ship, the sum
of all their parts, remains. So too the old
conflicted world she helped to keep alive.

For whatever such a past is worth,
the saved from scrapyard jets
commemorate the bold and dead.

Her flight deck reaches back, uniting
causes lost or not quite won,
for anyone who cares, or listens.

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