Writing by Peter Hilton

Fog

A poem by C. Robert Hilton.

Pearl blankness and the watery world must pause.
The roadstead packed with many ships close moored.
An anchor rattles down its clattering hawse.
You’d swear it was your own, so close aboard.

Blank stillness hiding unseen bulks of fear.
Invisible, but vivid to the mind.
Strange eerie sounds, but how far or how near?
Gigantic creatures suddenly gone blind.

The experience by day is something weird.
Most sounds are muffled, others may reflect.
The outside world, or you, have disappeared
And all the windows show a pearl effect.

By night an aura round the masthead light
Is often the first sign that fog is there,
Except when you have any lights in sight,
And even as you watch they disappear.

Fog was like this before sea radar came
To aid us and to clarify the scene.
And even now it’s very much the same.
As dangerous as nitro glycerine.

And so is radar. We must use it right,
Although it cannot lie in any way.
Someone unskilled, or by an oversight,
Can misinterpret what it seems to say.

A radar signal closing fine to port
In narrow waters where you can’t turn wide.
You don’t know she’ll do as you think she ought,
Give starboard wheel and pass down your port side.

And so to gain more time you stop your ship,
But still the other holds her lethal course.
You come astern, but sternway won’t outstrip
That onrush, only mitigate its force.

She’s so close on the screen you have to lift
Your eyes, and there she is advancing near,
Deliberate as continental drift,
And edging to one side, but will she clear?

©2008 C. R. Hilton