The Wreck – a poem

I sit gazing over the warm waters of Islamorada –
The seabirds, the distant lighthouse, the wind-surfers,
Kayakers, and jet-skiers skudding to and fro.
Islamorada about relaxation, slowness,
Extended time, warmth, sun and beauty.
Rather than their busy-ness what intrigues me
Is what seems to be a wreck,
Marooned on the outer edges of the reef.
From the beach it reminds me of the carcass of a
Giant Wildebeest on the Africa savannah,
Its gaunt ribs, bleached by the sun, pointing to the sky.

My imagination takes control. No, it must be old,
A large, wooden fishing boat, forlorn and abandoned.
What accounted for its demise, the summons of death?
Did a storm or a hurricane drive the boat ashore?
Is there some treacherous current out there?
Did the skipper, reveling in a good day’s fishing,
Take a lazy short-cut across a sandbar toward the jetty?
Were the crew celebrating the catch with one too many beers,
With the engine at full blast, the steersman inattentive,
Drink in hand, came the sudden halt, the lurch,
As boat grounds on the reef in a falling tide.
At that speed it stresses the keel and chines.
Chaos! Maybe broken planking in the hull?
Maybe water pouring in?
Broken glasses and whisky pouring from the bottle.
A sudden sobering up, a ship abandoned.

Or was it more sober, a simple mistake?
Perhaps a freshening gale and the need for a secure mooring
Led to a moment of distraction and impatience?
The water is shallow, no lives were at stake.
At worst the crew could reach land and struggle in
Through choppy waters, touching the weedy bottom.
Best get the boat straight to safety. A risk taken.
All at once the boat was so firmly lodged that
Nothing could refloat her.

That was a year ago and every day the sea claims
Another piece of stringer here or a grab-rail there,
As the fishing boat gradually disintegrates.


“The remains of that boat out there, offshore”, I ask.
“What is its story? Was there an accident or perhaps a storm?”
” A boat? There is no boat”, comes the reply. ” Oh, that!
“Look again. That is no fishing boat; it is a
Dislodged up-coast in a winter storm.
It floated down from Key to Key and settled upon
The sandbar, where now you see it”.

So much for my daydreaming! And my eyesight.
But I still prefer the more exciting version.
(Robert Hanrott, 1995)

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