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File:RMS Queen Mary Long Beach January 2011 view.jpg

(RMS_Queen_Mary_Long_Beach_January_2011.jpg David Jones

derivative work 2011 File Upload Bot Altair 78(talk))


Grandfather sat at the prow of my bed,

his pipe smoke furling from a brown funnel.

Tell me again: what was the very first thing

you had to do, to build The Queen Mary?

(single-handedly, I probably thought.)


Och, it’s all about rivets – lots of them.


Sitting up, I tucked the quilt round my legs,

replicating the outline of a hull.

We sipped tea from imaginary cans,

eating chocolate wafer Blue Ribands.

His narration of yard life, like Yarrow Boilers,

never ran out of steam; their flow increased.


The fog came down. Make the noise! Make the noise!

And he would drone the deep ‘A’ of its horn.

We flitted round The Grey Ghost arm in arm,

measuring the umpteen miles of carpet;

swimming in the pool and dancing, dancing,

at The Starlight Club. What’s a Turkish Bath?


Enthralled by the bright sparks of his stories;

strengthened by many blow-by-blow accounts

of what lay beneath the dimpled surface,

I never felt held back by rusting chains.


I was swaged and took on his impressions. So,

now, decades later, I am assuaged,

having been sent down the slipway of life,

christened and launched on that maiden voyage,

into a specially widened, dredged channel,

to follow my White Star: plated and sealed

and watertight through the symbiosis

of the riveter and the riveted.


A lucky four leaf clover propeller

directed my course down the Clyde and out

into the North Atlantic. Now retired,

far from home; docked like the grand old lady,

I have righted myself from past rogue waves-

listing, but not sinking, because of him

and the ballast he laid down in my hold.


Below my Plimsoll Line, when fog comes down,

I still feel the pistons of his heartbeat,

attuned to my own and powerful still.