Transition Poem 70 @ Jan. 17, 2017

Walter Holland
The Ship of State

changes course,
doors swing right and left unhinged
and on a dark sea and in a dark room

the engines come to halt. Slowly
lights go out, one by one
shimmer and die

while faint voices sound
alarm and huddled on the top
deck, the men in tuxedos

women adorned, chatter on;
a pause in the music,
a respite from the dance

a tinkling of crystal
while the great silence below ensues
where immigrants in steerage

cower on half-knees and
in the vast hull of the ship
the water seeps in

to the cries of workmen
soaked in sweat. A captain
half-distracted, half-amused

calls from his tower room,
as the ship begins to list,
his assistants bark their orders

with absurd futility;
they argue about the chain of
command, their loyalty

and then the creak of iron,
to stairways thronged, the half-awake
driven from their sleep

wait to climb to higher ground;
and the compass merely spins,
as the great bow plunges down.


Walter Holland is the author of three books of poetry including Circuit, Transatlantic, and A Journal of the Plague Years: Poems 1979-1992 as well as one novel, The March. His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Assaracus, HazMat, Redivider, Rhino and other journals and anthologies. He lives in New York City and is a regular contributor to Lambda Literary and Pleiades. For more info check out He holds a BA from Bard, and MA from City College, and a PhD in English Literature from the Graduate Center, CUNY.

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