The Point of Vanishing Stability

In a yacht, the point of vanishing stability
is reached when the vessel decides
it has had enough of gales and tumult
and will overturn. In the boat we are on,
this is a measurable angle, defined
by calculation and testing. We are pleased
to learn it is 120°
Summoning up our mathematical imagination
we place the mast well below the surface
with our boat springing back to save us
as we tumble about our beam ends.

It is a phrase that seizes. Passing
straight from the workshop manual
to the page of possibility. As we charge
the waves, and crash through with
jovial insouciance, the world and
its endless chaos breaks upon the
decks to tumble past in salty streams.

And so we trust to all designers
that the keel will hold beneath, that
the mounting pressure on the sails
will spill from the tops like so much
laughter. And so with all the lubberly
uproar from our safety-conscious lands,
with bitter crowds converging
on the monuments they would disown,
with grave ministers of state who
battle with the tide of numbers
competing for our panic or our grief.

May the bow split water still,
may whosoever did the sums
and placed us in this sea have got it right.
Through edgy fears and sacrifice
we stand fast to the wheel, and
still keep on tacking home, past tipping
points that howl but never come.

The Mull of Kintyre
August 2020