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R.M.S Rangitiki

Old man in the fo’c’sle drawing on your pipe
smelling of turpentine and paint and tar
making this journey almost all your life,
you never spoke of family or friend;
you’re hearth’s this drum of paint this coil of rope
you’re window one brass eye,
an endless ocean devoid of tree or grass.

You taught us knots, your thin stained hands
bending the tarry twine with easy skill –
bowline, reef, rolling hitch and star –
taught us to splice a tail, a trusty eye.
That grand old ship has gone at last to scrap,
the paint, the Brasso, the holystones
wrapped in a shell of flaking rust.
Your long journeying too must now be passed,
yet still, when I bend a knot I see you
in the corner of my eye.

 

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