Funeral for a Lady

after J.M.W. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire


Setting sun bores through murk
and filthy air about the dockland,
torches clouds that tower above.
They drift away for miles
like flame-lit smoke, rising
from a giant's pyre.

Sun's rays light up a pale
and high-prowed ship. She bears
Trafalgar's battle scars
but no crew now -- no agile men
swarm like spiders
in her rigging, no officers scream
orders from the deck, no frantic
gunners toil in blood
at smoking ports --
her glory days are all ago,
her battles now are ended.

Her masts stripped bare of sails
like slender trees bereft of leaves
in dead of winter,
the ageing ship stands ghostly white
above the grimy water.

No fresh seawind drives her now
through white-capped waves --
an ugly, mutant waterbeetle
squats above the waterline
to tug her up this slimy River Styx,
belches black and noisome fumes
while gulping coal to crawl its way
to Mr. Beatson's breakup yard upstream.

First published in Loch Raven Review, 2007

© David Nourse 2010


Return to Dave's Poems