Monday, January 6, 2014

The Party by Rob Walker

Here's a poem I felt compelled to write shortly after my father (James
Thomas Walker) passed away in May 2011. He rarely spoke of his war days.
I expect he chose to not dwell on them. However, this poem is from a
story he told me about forty years ago.
Rob Walker

Three months was the least we would sail,
From Fort St. John to St. Ives,
And we set out again with one hundred-six men
In hopes we would come home alive.

The able on both sides enlisted,
To wage the Great War on their foe,
And the safety of those who were loved and held close
Was the force that compelled them to go.

This was my fourth tour of duty,
With more than our fair share of nubs,
But they would return with the lessons they'd learn,
As long as we stymied the subs.

Two ounces of rum was our issue,
To be drunk before bed for our nerves,
But we stored it away for that most fateful day
No ninety-day wonder deserves.

We checked on our stockpile of foxers
That were saving our lives by their sound,
Whenever we missed with the DCs we dished,
And the Jerry's torpedoes came round.

The Third Reich developed a missile
To skim slightly under our wake
And alter its path to deliver its wrath
To the noise the ship's engine would make.

Our Corvette could never stop moving,
For the noise from the foxer would fail,
And the racket that kept us alive would be still
And the 'fish' would be right on our tail.

The Captain had given us orders,
For whenever the engine was down,
To slip off our shoes - so we'd break out the booze
And we'd binge without making a sound.

Two weeks out of port, in the crossing,
When the spray of mid-April still bit,
In spite of the engineers' efforts,
The engine decided to quit.

The subs kept on ringing the radar,
And now we were waiting to die.
As we prayed, the mechanics, who couldn't make noise,
Had no other choice but to try.

As they labored to fix what was broken,
The men up above faced their fear,
And no one would sleep for three days on the deep
With the prospect of drowning so near.

I saw the crew stagger and stumble
As the waves and the booze took effect,
But they knew that their eyes never would see St. Ives
If they so much as spoke on the deck.

The carryings on and the binging,
With an absolute absence of noise
Caused a fear so intense it turned boys into men
And some of the men into boys.

And somewhere above me a seabird
Looked down upon miles of sea
Where the sun on the whitecaps and wind in its wings
Must have made it feel glorious and free.

As it spotted our speck of a vessel
And thought how men must be at peace,
With forty-eight million warriors killed
And no plan to surrender or cease,

It spied this superior species
From its vantage point, miles above
And watched as the speck slowly sank out of site,
Out of hatred and fear, out of love.

Rob Walker
Received October 2012