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To the Sea in Ships


They that go down to the Sea in ships

to the sweet and scented sea… the glistening ocean

blown vessels that sailed

with rope and canvas

upon her shining surfaces


Ancestors – you who went down to the sea in ships

where did you go?

what shores did you step upon

which sands…which shells so different

to the whelks of home did you marvel at

Collect and place upon your window sill

in some small village houses

reminders of memories you strove to share

in sketches made by swaying lamplight

to the creak of timbers.


They that go down to the sea in ships

have seen the dipping albatross… the petrels

St Peter’s bird who walks on waters of the deep

foam-strewn ocean

and then ascends…

these creatures of legend and mythology

sketched…a fleeting charcoal impression lost

in time yellowed paper

crumbling into eternity.


They that go down to the sea in ships

tread watchfully between  mangroves

clustered either side the glistening shoals

of shingle on some strange shore

through stillness broken by

an updraft of breeze shuffling the grasses

whispering between the stems

teasing the mangrove branches

dimpling the ponds between the shingle banks


They that go down to the sea in ships

may pause and breathe

the vastness of the ocean

half listening to the pad of seagulls’ feet

in silky warm pools

of the creeping inward tide…

Then walk the rippling ridges

to a waiting vessel.


(‘They that go down to the Sea in Ships’, Psalm 107, The Holy Bible.)

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