He was twenty
at least convincingly so.
He took on board valuable possessions:
a thin quilt, a small pillow,
a cardboard case with a change of clothes.
He had his own cabin
not much larger than a bed
It was private space, the first hed ever had.
The small ship swung
like a cradle in abusive hands.
He ate his meals, drunk his tea,
made his rounds, did the accounts
in countless oceanic parabolas.
He held more than his dinner down
The crew, all older men
in the sense of old
most half a century ago
was impressed by two things:
and his diploma in civil engineering
In the good old days respect was easily gained;
no need to swear, flex muscles or turn to drink
Rough weather was a small price to pay
for this balmy time in the sea of his life.
It could have been his vocation.
But politics had its say
the China coast became forbidden land
grounding all merchant ships.
The war was in Korea,
one of its victims in Hong Kong
He was twenty-one
except for short rides on passenger ferries.