Poetry

Cannibal Rats

Cash from Hibernia and Terra Nova cancelled what we once knew about shipwrecks, when green water ran on the slanted decks

BY


The Walrus
The Walrus

Blue steel rusted by the sea, it was worth
only its salvage, years of South and North
Poles eating at her, while the rats who had run
  aboard on mooring ropes were eating son
and daughter bred inside her belly—
generations of need in the galley
and the staterooms. No one wanted to own
her dereliction in this changed town,
so she sat there, the Lyubov Orlova.

Cash from Hibernia and Terra Nova
cancelled what we once knew about shipwrecks,
when green water ran on the slanted decks
of wood ships broached to and on their beam ends
remembered in folk songs where nothing mends.

Revenant myself, I may not cavil
about how art and memory unravel,
followed my chances on the mainland,
got tenure, found the taxpayers’ open hand,
and am now a Jonah where I was born,
confused by both the fog and the foghorn;
returning to my peculiar Nineveh,
I have no message: I’ve just been away.

A tugboat dragged that ghost ship out to sea,
lost it when a rope broke or they let it free
just outside this country’s jurisdiction.
The Irish papers loved the rodent fiction
and supposed it landing soon in Galway,
full of cannibal rats looking for new prey.
It joined all that history of drowned fleets,
without song or poem but a million tweets.

Richard Greene won the 2010 Governor General’s Award for Poetry. His latest collection is Dante’s House.




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