Upon yonder sea so deep and blue,
Against the red of a failing sunset:
Black, stark black a hull and masts!
And strangest of all, it nears!
Against the wind it comes,
And the yards are bare!
May Heaven have mercy on our souls,
Far from land, alone on the lonely sea,
Our only company black against the silver moon.
A silence, as of death, has fallen upon us;
This ship we see touches our very souls,
And makes us quiet as only Death should.
On and on it comes, against the wind,
A spectral ship against a silver moon.
Slowly the Captain raises his glass,
And with a face even whiter whispers:
“No sails has she, nor crew, nor wake,
Nor even a bone between her teeth!”
Now fails the wind and we glide onward,
Towards this ghostly ship, unable to not.
No control, our sails slack, the helm mindless.
Here and there, to their knees they drop,
The faithful, the sceptics, the scornful,
Praying among those who are fear-frozen.
Closer, ever closer it comes,
As we lie there, bereft of wind.
Bereft of life, it seems, the sweeps idle.
And lo, I notice there is no sound.
The rigging, the ship, the men, the water…
Silence, nothing but silence since the Captain.
Here and there, a man falls, dead of fear.
Noticed, but not noticed, soundless they fall.
Is this the doom of us all, in silence to die?
Three lengths away the ship, oncoming still:
Stark, stark black, in the silver moon’s path
And now the cold begins to seep into our souls.
Two lengths away, and clear we see the deck:
As said the Captain, she’s bare of crew.
A name begins to form, black letters on black,
A length and we can but stare,
Her bowsprit pointed at our hearts
Yet no man moves to turn us, or save himself.
Soundless the bowsprits touch, and she is on us!
We can not move to save ourselves, nor our souls:
The mind frozen, the soul cold to the bone
As down our keel she passes through us all,
Her bowsprit impaling us each through and through,
Freezing, for one brief instant, our hearts and souls.
Then wonder of wonders, she is past, behind us,
But still we are frozen, our souls forever cold;
She is there, drawing away, we feel her leaving,
But we can not look, can not form the thought,
And still the silence holds us tight,
But our souls, our souls are ours once again.
There is a quiet wail, something felt, not heard.
Once again we become aware of one another,
Still in silence we know each other once again.
Now we turn, raggedly, commonly, fearfully…
And there she is, drawing away into the black night,
Black, stark black against the blackness of the night.
The Captain is the captain, with a reason,
And quietly he gives us back our lives:
“Her name was Death Wind, and to Death she belongs.
She’s come and gone, lads, but we’ve work to do.
Some souls to commit, and a ship to sail.”
And with his quiet words, we hear the ship.
One last look, and she’s gone now,
Leaving us on the lonely sea once again.
We look to each other, and quietly gather together,
The four soul-less bodies left behind,
Mere husks who were but recently fellow mariners,
And to the deep we commit them.
Now comes the wind once again, the welcome wind —
Our yards and hull creak as the sails fill,
And still in silence, our own silence,
We do what must be done, set our course.
And lo, in yonder East the sun does rise
Declaring a new day, and a new hope.
And with the sun there comes warmth,
Of a sort, for forever now will our souls
Harbor some trace of the cold left behind
From the passing of two ships in the night,
One mortal, one spectral, one ours, one Death’s.
And as the sun rises, we all give thanks.
This poem was written as part of a regular practice of writing based on some single word or item, randomly picked from a dictionary, magazine, book, or some such.
The word for this one was “ship”.
It has not been changed in any way.