Across the wide Atlantic,
and many decades,
grey waters surge.
Here, just off the Carolina coast,
beneath noon skies, a crewman tallies
vehicles on the deck of the Hatteras ferry,
checks the heavy chocks blocking tires
of the sleek RV at the rear; his companion stretches
the steel chain, tests its clasps, nods.
No need for words.
No permission for words;
dangerous--"loose lips sink ships"--
commander lifts his hand,
and the landing
craft moves into the channel,
Behind the ferry
a frothy wake fascinates the children--
lots of children, dressed in cheerful shirts
and bright shorts; some dare to lean
over the rail, others hold tight
to their parents' hands.
hold tightly to
their parents' photographs,
or those of wives
or infants, or medallions
likeness of Christ or St. Christopher.
prayers; some contrive jokes,
nervous laughter, lest its echoes
ears on the Normandy shore.
On the Hatteras shore, patient vacationers
guard fishing lines, watch for telltale bobbles.
Nearby a graceful squadron of pelicans,
fourteen in all, glide and swerve, inches
above the inlet's gleaming surface.
of planes, far
beyond counting, blacken
the night sky
further, their ferocious roar
to the fierce staccato
of artillery fire
raining the Normandy coast
from the armada
lining the horizon.
Lining the ferry rail, suntanned tourists
armed with camera and camcorder
shoot onto film the fishers on the shore,
the bare ribs of cottages-to-be,
a yacht off starboard, flags cheerily waving.
flags visible in slate-gray channel air,
but clusters of
bright shellbursts accompanied by
the clamor of guns
speaking their unspeakable language.
Above the ferry, white gulls clutter the air,
squabble, and complain to passengers.
To the east, in serene blue skies,
great white clouds swell and billow.
further east, against night skies
swell and billow;
hundreds of men
with blackened faces
drop silently into
The ferry eases into port; chains fall,
passengers board luggage-crammed vehicles,
gun motors, then, given the signal,
lurch to the quiet shore of Ocracoke.
landing craft lowers its steel ramp;
seventy-five pound burdens,
move forward, step
chin-deep into icy waters
and a burning
barrage of bullets.
Eight miles down Ocracoke, a grizzled grandpa
hoists his wriggling grandson to his shoulder,
points to the shaggy ponies grazing
in their fenced refuge.
At this moment,
Beach, a man kneels
before one of nine
bows his white
head. Beside him, his wife
shoulder. Pain, securely stowed
for fifty years,
leaks from his eyes, his pores.
His fingers reach
to touch the name. They tremble.
And grey waters surge.
If you've any comments on this poem, Sally Buckner would be
pleased to hear from you.