Christmas Carol from the Pacific
By David D. Hawkins
from Little Old New York
by Ed Sullivan
This is my Ship.|
This, the U.S.S. Salt Lake City
Iron-bound, steel spired.
The Queen of the Seas.
This is the vessel I know
As a lover knows the face
Of his beloved.
Now her guns, ten long-snouted Jap-destroyers.
Lie quiescent and level;
Still; with power repressed;
Laten Majesty that can speak
Orange flamed Death to my enemies.
Still now; quiet now;
But only until the call comes for Battle.
For I have seen those guns lifted;
I have seen them high; quivering;
I have seen them on the scent;
In the velvet blackness; In the gray dawn;
In the blaze of a tropic noon.
I have heard them give their battle cry.
I have heard them speak Death.
I have felt our iron shell shot
To their speaking.
I have felt our decks leap as the guns spoke.
I have felt the concussion
Of those ten steel mouths speaking
Speaking as one; speaking Death.
In the dark I have seen their angry flashings,
Orange and Red and Black Deaths
On their way in the velvet blackness;
Orange and Red and Blacks Deaths speaking
In the ten bright, swift words
Flying against the darkness,
Converging into one flaming sentence;
Into one flaming, crashing, bursting sentence,
There in the night where the Japs were.
Where those Japs are now.
Dead now, Ghost now...
Yet this was but one Speaking
This was the night speaking.
Of the ten long-snouted Jap destroyers
Of the Queen of the Seas.
There were other Speakings.
But in that Speaking, the Salt Lake City
Became my Ship.
And I loved her.
But this Ship of mine - this Queen of the Seas.
This One-ship Fleet.
Is not alone the ten long Death-speakers.
Is not alone the steel her builders
Put into her making
She was cold and lifeless
Until her ship's company came.
then she felt life, and came alive.
These were her blood and nerve tissue.
These were her flesh. Filling the steel skeleton;
These were her Crew.
Her crew, sweating before the hot boilers.
Standing under the big blowers to read the gauges
While sweat burns their eyes, and runs in
Trickling rivulets under the blue chambray shirts.
Her crew. Sweating over the ranges as the food cooks.
Swearing at the heat and sweat.
Her crew, listening at the earphones
As the coded characters arrive.
Hoisting the colored bunting singing in the wind;
Shifting the great rudder to turn her course;
Filling the empty tubes with shells
Rammed swiftly home;
With silk-sheathed powder, perfumed with ether;
Death, packaged and directable ready for Speaking.
Her Life lives for the Death in her guns.
Jap-destroyers; As we who are of her
Live only to carry that Death closer and yet closer.
So the Speaking will be final;
Will be definite and defineable;
Will be a Silence to our enemies.
Thus we who live for Death
With that Death bring Life
To our Peoples, to our Freedoms.
Proudly we serve our Ship, Our Queen of the Seas.
Our One-Ship Fleet.
Proudly she will always be served,
For her ship's company is worthy of her might.
As I leave her, as I say good-by to her.
I say farewell not to a thing
of Steel and Death alone,
but to my Ship and my Ship's Company.
Farewell. Farewell and hail to all of you.
With you, and to your tendings
I leave my Ship, this Salt Lake City.
Sure that in her future Speakings as in her past
You who gave her Life Will keep her proudly.
Fight her magnificently.
Love her and bless her as have I,
And leave her reluctantly, As I do now.
December 24th, 1944
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