We did think twice whether to face
Such rain and gale force
Winds as inch deep drenched
The pavement and threatened to wrench
The massive steel and concrete building loose
From its base. This was as close
As the car would take us. We plunged into the rain
And staggering in the wind, stumbled, rather than ran
To reach shelter. As we and our colleagues sip
Our morning tea or coffee over desultory gossip
About this atrocious weather that still continues
Unabated, we hear the indifferent news
That the Wahine on her voyage across the strait, unable
To enter harbour in such a storm, has been disabled
And is drifting without power or help through the heads
But is in no immediate danger, the broadcast adds.
We had spent the night before wrecking our love
On one another's bones. We believed
Too readily that all was well, all shipshape,
Regardless of the storm whose vehemence and sharp
Onset intermittently we felt
Through concrete. We joked about the geological fault,
Rumoured to lie below the hillslope,
Which one day carrying building and all could slip
Catastrophically. We had awakened at six,
Two naked bodies in a single bed, had sex
Anew to the lash splash of the storm, with no thought
Beyond. Hours later we learnt with shock that
The Wahine, overwhelmed by an exceptional wave
Had sunk in the harbour. Just as conclusively we've
Become strangers. Fifty lives were lost
Within sight of the city viewers. The last
Of the wreckage was salvaged the other day.
That's how we watched our love die,
Uncomprehendingly, though in full view
It happened. Tell me, what became of you?
And were you murdered, Shelley? Was that your lot,
To be the victim of a cheap complot?
Were certain henchmen of repression -
English or Austrian or Russian,
For fear that word of yours from many a
Distress might free Greece or Romania,
Set to keep you under surveillance?
And menace at need with rough violence?
And did they learn that you had bought
A yacht and meant to sail in sport
The open waters of the bight?
And that night did they offer riches
Undreamt to certain local wretches,
Falucca boatmen in a tavern?
Was it suggested that one might stave in
A free board, or pull out a stern?
Or by mere mischance overturn
Some certain pleasure yacht? if such
One intercepted by luck or search
Sailing out on the wide blue sea
With no observer by to see.
Your boat goes scudding on the sea,
Mere skiff amidst an argosy
Of larger craft that stud the water
Away into the northern quarter.
Had vessels put out in pursuit
From Leghorn and kept yours in sight
Over the miles as it made north?
Then all the ships passed underneath
A sudden thunderstorm off shore
That blackened out the clear azure
Of sea and sky, and when it lifted
Only the larger boats were left,
Only the bigger craft remained,
Not yours, afloat on the bright main.
You drowned. And were you murdered, Shelley?
Tis a fair supposition surely
That while the scene at sea was screened
In squalls your little skiff careened
Under the blow, beneath the push
Of hands that rode in ruffian ambush.
Poems © F W N Wright 2010