With the marksman's lead threaded
in his spine, they took him down
to settle in the rocking dark, alert
to the cracks of battle: splinter spars;
powder pillows heft from copper store
to cannon; sharp wine in water; shouts;
sweats. He bled in his ship of skin,
three hours to reach death's dock.
Another man has no plaque, nor grave
beyond a weight of water. He has instead
a glass display, labels to mark him:
barber-surgeon drowned with his chest.
Here are his knives, his herbs, a leather
of shoe, some dice, some coins, a bone
nit-comb. He has no face; his blood
rusts in Solent muds. Still he was here.
This boat is all lignin bone in mist,
a preservation of what was once great,
and lost, and rescued. I pay good coin
to view her - for she is my history
as much as the bricks and stones
of the town surrounding us, the heroes
who watched these docks slip past,
a clinch in our tide's slow pulse.