16 January 2017
We are always dying down in steerage -- have always been.
Here's another myth: The captain goes down with the ship.
You travel both on the backs of stevedores in sweat-black walls,
and star-eyed dreamers in sky-less holds,
fire bolted and contained,
water always finding seams.
We are down with the steam.
We are always dying down in steerage --
Hatches closed on water persistent.
Hatches closed on fire unloosed.
Hatches closed on bursting boilers.
Hatches closed on our echoing songs.
We see sky when dead on deck, when over-rail dumped.
Who are the uncounted numbers and who are the names?
We are the heartbeat down in steerage, the piston thud, the hum of driving screw.
We are whomever you call rat: the dago spic queers, the Jews, the junkies, chinks, fags the blacks.
We are the fire behind the hatch. The fluid and the flame, the artist fighters, the exposed wires.
Always dying down in steerage -- always have and always will,
but this ship is a ghost ship, and we hold sway behind hatches
where we hide your wonder and the power,
behind hatches where wanders your desire.
Behind and beneath in the coal-black fires.
While you move over waters, we move through seas.
We are always dying down in steerage -- may always be,
but we are living ripe, dying but pregnant, alive but oddly free.