You can tell a thousand-footer
by her straight back, hammer head
—a skyscraper toppled.
Too long for locks, what she’s best at:
pushing taconite from Duluth to Gary,
the endless circuitry of ports.
Built from the centre of the earth up,
this ship is a piece of ceremonial armour,
a leviathan penny, a horseshoe
pinned to Great Lakes lucky until she’s not.
Christened and kissed off
years before you were born,
she is an older sister, a summer cousin
who only appears in a quarter of your photos
and out of focus. She’s your favourite
because you barely know her.
In smaller water, this ship could be
an island, bridge, or territory.
She is a herd of 20,000 horses
trembling to shake off its load.
In her wake, lesser vessels are sent to scrap,
run aground, and peeled down to air, yet one day
it will cost less to wreck her than to keep her:
a final trip to Port Colborne or Alang.
Breakers will scrabble up her hard-rusted sides,
pull her down by torch and hand.
Her pieces soon held in the gut
of another ship downbound for better things.
After the Edwin H. Gott
This appeared in the June 2011 issue.