Last of the White Star Liners
Forty eight thousand and eighty tons. More
magnificent than her older sisters. The third,
final part of an ocean triptych –
Olympian, Titan and Giant. Begun
with behemoth Olympic, impotently parted
by miles of cold sea from her cracked,
plunging sister. Doomed to endure and ignore
her fading calls – the desperation of Titanic.
Last but not least, she was meant to be
christened Gigantic. This did not convey
the patriotic, it was claimed, though in truth
this name would bring too readily to mind
association with desperate, drowning deaths.
So Gigantic was rebirthed Britannic –
last of the White Star Liners. Born and built
in changing times, she never carried
her dancing rich, in swooping skirts
and dickie-bows, nor a hold full of third class
hope for a better life. Sank anyway, her doom
to join her sister in the deep. Met the Herz horn
of a sea-mine. Took thirty souls with her.
Answered her kindred’s lonesome song.
History would remember that at least
she had enough lifeboats.
The birds told me stories of paths in the sky
Us wrens keep stump-tailed secrets. Hedgerow dabs
in their doily baskets – Home Sweet Homes to peep from,
dainty, plump as busy fairies. We will show the art
of quick-flits, how to snip posthaste from hedge to tree.
Come sit with us passerines! The dawn opens to our throats!
Beady fatlings we, little smut of herringbone on our wings.
Go higher! Crows have more ambition – you will find us,
unkindness grouped in twig-tops. Fed on feasts of flesh
and scrap – any chance to get our beaks down, stuff our guts.
Stick with us – survive! We do not wait like tits, for cats
to make lunch of or meats! Our bills is smirking slate –
we ain’t got no fears. Is suckers for shiny and sweet.
Go higher still! We are white in the air – how beautiful!
We are poetry. Even our deaths are blood and snow.
In perfect love, we will tell you of staying together for life.
Such fairness! All water reflects us, Children of Lir. Our flight
is song! We advise you trust in love. Be elegant, as you land
on glass. Make sweet hearts of your necks.
Are you brave enough to join the Gyps Rueppellii? In days way back,
man cricked his neck, called us angels. Fly where air meets ozone –
come to troposphere! Beauty matters not when you can bite through bone.
Heads bald as blind-worms, scapula lugged like menhir on our backs.
No other bird gets up so close to heaven. We see the dots on Earth.
Go from carcass to sky, rot to redemption, hunch to halleluiah!
One for sorrow.
One little piebald augur of doom,
loafing the road, a shiftless portent.
It knows what it’s doing – bracing its ribby toes like jacks,
stilting on tinder-stick legs, cocking a snooky beak right at me.
Sorrow for you lady –
touch your face, touch your hair.
You cannot deter this sadness
with saluting. One of us. One
in your rear view mirror, one
scratting along your morning pavement. One
dropping gutter-moss on your clear, plastic porch roof. Thunk.
Look at me.
Two for joy –
winking their marmalade harbinger
eyes over jam-sponge carcass – wiping sticky rabbit fur
from greedy beaks, licking round their smiles
with devil’s blood tongues. Joy indeed,
on this carrion feast, you monsters.
Yes! We are happy, gorged on maggot meat
and mated for life – we know what we are.
Why this happiness in pairs? I have had my woe
from being doubled up and I have sat alone,
feeling that bit closer to the stars.
Pinto oracles of roadside fate – eaters of eggs,
stealers of chicks, robbers of nest-homes.
All the doffing in the world will not spare your fortune.
Three for a girl –
you already wasted your shibboleth on me.
Four for a boy!
Don’t you dare turn your sight to my son –
I tell him nothing of you. Your anathema
will end here.
Five for silver, six for gold –
robbed from the very eyes of the dead
should you wish to collect it, I bet.
Seven four our secrets?
I already know that you are night and day,
a thief who will peck out the eyes of a sheep.
I know the meaning of your solitary forms,
know that if I see you on your own,
then you have lost your loves.
Jane Burn is a writer and illustrator based in the North East of England. Her poems have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including The Rialto, Iota Poetry, Obsessed With Pipework, The Interpreter’s House, the Black Light Engine Room Literary Review, Beautiful Dragons and the Emma Press.
Jane has published two pamphlets to date, Fat Around the Middle (Talking Pen, 2015) and Tongue of Fire (Black Light Engine Room Press, 2015). Her debut collection, nothing more to it than bubbles, will be published by Indigo Dreams in November 2016.
She is also the founder of the online poetrysite, The Fat Damsel.