f o u r  p o e m s



He was twenty

maybe twenty-one

slim, solitary


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 he’d 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:

his sea-worthiness

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

maybe twenty-two

grounded forever

except for short rides on passenger ferries.




Eva Hung




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