The Actress and the Aircraft Carrier

for Chastity Dotson

An Actress and an aircraft carrier –
two concepts Hollywood would understand.
See Hudson, Peck or Garner in command,
with Day, Monroe or Hepburn in the lace.
He humbled, she in control, the carrier
probably in shades of pink. It’s more teasing
than a test of war, with no weapon mightier
than a ring upon a finger.

Today’s Carrier refits in readiness
across the bay, a giant behemoth
of peace riding easy at her chains.
The Carl Vinson – Nimitz  Class – and capable
of anything at all.  Below her cold-war
decks glow two perpetual reactors
whose sleeping powers lie like cats.

Such great causes she has been about –
undertaker to Bin Laden’s burial at sea;
a rescue centre for disaster; delivering
protection for a world of energy and wealth.

No chance here for a young woman
to bring the navy or a nation to its knees.
But now you never know what anyone
may do, and in our happy hour bar
we meet an actress of our own. Young,
black, a new age pioneer of self-
determination, adventuring a world
of difference and change. She plays for roles
that make no stars, or writes her own.

An actor and an aircraft carrier. And here’s
a nation owning to the lives of both.
Between Seven Ages and the seven seas
both have futures to be made and settled.

My new screenplay has the ship afloat
upon the inner life, fighters overhead
emotions and their fickle flitter, dowsing
fires in bitter hearts and fissioned brains.
Our actress plays the captain of her soul,
rebukes the wind, turns swords and missiles
into pens and pageants for the final reel.

Somewhere a rainbow big enough where this
is not beyond. Sure in this big land
can come the greater good –  to be the master
of the human heart, the mistress of the seas.


See Chastity Dotson and the USS Carl Vinson



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.