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The Sailor Who Fell From The Rigging

He's a bone-hoard, laid
golden on the table,
piecemeal, dislocated

in the naval hospital
at Haslar, this casualty
from Nelson's day. Skull

a cup, eye-sockets empty
bezels for aquamarine
or jet. The carved vertebrae,

links in a polished chain
that has come unstrung
since, long ago, a man

fell, his limbs flailing,
in that last instant
when limbs would do his bidding,

before every joint
of arms and legs splintered
on the deck; made a patient

of a seaman. His scarred
bones were knitting together,
twisted, no doubt, awkward,

when the usual fever
sank him in the dark.
He is turned to treasure,

the ribs' symmetrical fretwork,
the pendant branches
of phalanges, the serpentine torc

two clavicles make. Riches
beyond price, broken past
restoring, such choice pieces
as cannot be replaced.

Sheenagh Pugh

Poetry Wales

Winter 2011 / 2012

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