Pictures of a dead harbor


Like dinosaurs,the cranes are dead
bones of vacancies for silent shipyards
Their silhouettes remain as carrion birds
for signatures in clotted blood,
for politics and salaries
that’s always lower somewhere else.

The workers’ overalls still seek their host,
empty shells they’re stained with oil
they wait in vain in empty locker rooms,
the fabric wait to stretch for muscles once again.

The welders used to work with steel,
creating hulls to fill our thirst for oil,
for roads and dust, for must, for growth.

‘I used to build the ships’, he says
His voice, a hiding vertebrate,
a stranded jellyfish, the slither of a worm.
‘I used to spend my paycheck well’
tobacco-angst and blood-shot eyes.
‘I used to drink heroic beer’
He sighs, and rubs his cheek, unshaven sentences:
‘Before the harbor died, we used to live’

Shipyard Geometry by Scott Johnson, on Flickr

Shipyard Geometry by Scott Johnson, on Flickr


Today Fireblossom wants us to write a poem with a title “Pictures of _____” at toads. This poem is about all the harbors that have gone dead. The town I grew up in, Gothenburg, had the largest shipyards in the world, they are all gone today, but for decades the cranes stood there as skeletons from the past.
—-
June 18, 2015

31 responses to “Pictures of a dead harbor

  1. While stopped overnight at Harwich, Essex, U.K, Mrs. Jim and I walked to the old harbor. Two restored lighthouses were standing tall. “I used to” be a lighthouse keeper. Many times I have dreamt of a job like that. Of course my jobs were not slouches. ( Also I wrote a short poem of the walk to Harwich which you read. Thanks now, as I wasn’t able to return comments then.)
    ..
    ..

  2. No other verse for me describes the waste land like this on

    The workers’ overalls still seek their host,
    empty shells they’re stained with oil
    they wait in vain in empty locker rooms,
    the fabric wait to stretch for muscles once again.

    a must read again kind of poem

    have a nice Friday

    much love…

  3. I spent some time in a town where Coal had abandoned them. It was so poor, and no one ever left. Chained still to a place that was always there, but left them little hope for something more. I feel that in your words today.

  4. Yes, such vivid images here, Bjorn–the overalls remind me of those Matisse paintings of shoes and clothes with the body parts–Gothenburg is the part of Sweden my grandparents immigrated here from; no doubt they sailed on one of those ships. I did hear of one of the biggest shipbuilding companies in Denmark now making turbines for wind generators full staff, so perhaps someday those jobs now in China will come back.

  5. This is a most singular look at the passage of time, the effects of fallen enterprise on the lives of ordinary people. On point!

  6. I love these:
    “dead
    bones of vacancies”
    “His voice, a hiding vertebrate,
    a stranded jellyfish”
    “his cheek, unshaven sentences”

  7. This poem is awesome…and I esp love this:
    “I used to build the ships’, he says
    His voice, a hiding vertebrate,
    a stranded jellyfish, the slither of a worm.”

  8. oh i could feel them – love the images – love esp. the part where the overalls yearn to be put on again and feeling the muscles and sweat of the workers

  9. You’re captured the iconic archetypal labor mentality and mileau, beautifully and powerfully, here. I grew up in a town that once boasted 14 paper mills (large and small) and the biggest grain elevators in the world – brought by train from the prairies and shipped from our harbor down the St. Laurence Seaway, everywhere … now: empty train tracks, ugly elevators falling down and a harbor in the process of being redeveloped for tourism. I know the tremendous loss that those dead bones signify. ‘Before the harbor died, we used to live’ brought a lump to my throat.

  10. You brought forth this tragic history beautifully with you poetic voice – Sting has a musical out about his youth “the Last Ship”. It has closed but I want to order the cast recording…

  11. Since childhood i’v always associated cranes with dinosaurs…but never thought of empty overalls that way! Wish companies/people would clean up their own messes.

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