Excerpt from MESSAGES FROM SEA: 1943
All action becomes a prayer of hands
converging at the prow– fingertips like candles,
guns at the ready, portholes blacked out.
Behind the black paint
my father reads
letters home from the Navy men
delivered unsealed to his door.
He is the official censor, cuts out
location, place names, destinations,
flow of cargo passing quickly under his hands.
He takes a razor, cuts
a slot in the page where the words fall
then burns the small paper in the brass ashtray
made from a cartridge shell.
He is the interrupter of speech, texture, wholeness
and breath across the mind. He gets good at skimming,
quickly riding each man’s rhythm of speech,
incident, yearning, details
stream of thought,
so he can read less carefully as time goes on.
He doesn’t like knowing the shapes of thought
behind their young masks.
He seals the mail,
sends it out across the water.
3. Letter X
We passed within a few miles of my brother Geoff the other morning. I could see the dark bulk of land and the lights blinking as the shapes of the ships passed between me and shore. But, of course, I could do nothing… a queer feeling of frustration. I would love to speak freely with someone, not that I have anything to get off my chest, but to talk with the mask down would be a great satisfaction. ‘Mask’ is a poor word, ‘guard’ is a little better. What I mean, I think, is that I don’t really know my companions and I am afraid of boring or annoying them with talk of me or my family or you or my work. All the Captain wants of me, basically, is to know that the guns, gunners and ammunition are ready. Beyond that, the Navy and my private life are only as interesting as I can make them in anecdote.