THE FORGOTTEN CAPTAIN
We have many shadows. I was on my way home
one September night when Y
climbed out of his grave after forty years
and kept me company.
At first he was completely blank, just a name
but his thoughts swam
faster than time ran
and caught up to us.
I put his eyes into my eyes
and saw the war's sea.
The last boat he commanded
rose up from under us.
Ahead and behind the Atlantic convoy crept,
those who would survive
and those who'd been given The Mark
(invisible to all).
While the sleepless hours relieved each other
but never him —
the life vest snug under his oilskin coat.
He never came home.
It was internal crying that bled him to death
in a Cardiff hospital.
He finally got to lie down
and turn into the horizon.
Farewell eleven-knot convoys! Farewell 1940!
Here's where world history ends.
Bombers hung in the air.
Heather bloomed in the moors.
A photo from early in the century shows a beach.
Six well-dressed boys standing there.
They have sailboats in their arms.
What serious expressions!
The boats that became life and death for some of them.
And to write about the dead
is also a game, made heavy
by what is yet to come.
T O M A S T R A N S T R O M E R
translated by Patty Crane
Sarabande Books 2015