Poetry at Sea Two Prose Poems by Michael McInnis

Poetry at Sea

Asked the recruiter would I be able to write poetry on a ship, stifled by discipline and regimentation and salt encrusted rails and salt encrusted slabs of lukewarm meat and beige chicken with a dollop of rice and water that always taste gritty with everything on the ship painted three shades of grey and a yellow that does not exist in nature just to break up the monotony of duty 4 hours on 4 hours off, six hours off if you’re lucky so you can write poetry high on amphetamines, snorting or shooting with the burn down your throat, or the rush in your veins and there’s no way you feel like Jesus’ son, just a wired sailor in an 400-foot vessel—a Pequod of compartments and water-tight spaces and dogged doors, hatchways, bulkheads and ladders—sitting on a chock with a notebook trying to get some words down, or you can walk around the ship up the port passageway and down the starboard side and around the Captain’s gig or the motor whale boat and head back up to the fo’c’sle because you’re not going to find any solace or inspiration sitting on the fantail watching the sun set because sunsets on the ocean are pretty boring and always the same colors of muted red, white and blue and that’s the truth because from the deck of my small frigate I’ve seen sunsets and sunrises across half the globe, on both sides of the equator throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the only thing changing is the ocean, it never shows the same face twice, never rests during the day or night and the horizon is always just out of reach and if you ever actually sail to the horizon, reach the horizon before the world turns and the oceans splash across the face of the planet as if all the whales and sea monsters had swum to one side of the globe and drowned the land for the final time then that would be inspiring and you’d have to get a few words down and take a few pictures as the ship went pitch poling off the edge of the world.


Destiny had always discounted her neighbor’s complaints of flashing lights, multi-colored streamers and shrill noises to failed weather balloon experiments, rocket circuitry malfunctions and distracted sonar men until she woke one morning to find a team of three astronauts in her backyard. One astronaut sat against the far fence, his head slumped on his chest weighed down by the white helmet, shimmering like a dwarf sun illuminating the dark side of the earth, beyond verdant forests and the shamals that blow across the sea as if enveloping Destiny’s backyard in a vaporous whiteness. The other two astronauts lay on the ground, both on their backs as if irradiated beetles had grown in mass to occupy ponderous spacesuits, clouds like sprinkled white asterisks reflected on the darkened visors of their helmets.

Michael McInnis lives in Boston and spent six years in the Navy sailing across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the Persian Gulf three times, chasing white whales and ending up only with madness. He has published poetry and short fiction in Literary Yard, 1947, Dead Snakes, Monkey Bicycle, Cream City Review, 5×5 Singles Club, Facets Magazine, Arshile, Nightmare of Reason, Oak Square, Quimby Quarterly and Version 90.