The Wreck of the Royal Iris

The Wreck of the Royal Iris

First they crush a crystal with a stone,
then they study the silver dust,
magnify the mass,
sup some tea from a cup,
look up, and think,
no more to hone.
That’s that experiment done.
No need to do another one.
But where is all this going?
Oh, I know.
Look what can be seen
through the navigator’s compass and glass.

Alas, the Royal Iris, the old ferry boat’s gone.
A sea gull’s cry shears the sky.
Now there’s something,
something to sadden a sailor
or anyone like me who remembers
a time long gone by.
For some reason, they left it to rot,
down south, on the banks of the Thames,
to lean to one side, a relic
Charles Dickens might have lifted his pen
to take as one of his chance inspirations
for some descriptive work,
maybe in Great Expectations.

The wreck of the Royal Iris
with cruel neglect, they left to rust.
Black ink black, burnt bread brown,
dark orange yellow red rust
that ate its way over its crust.
Cold air they let bend back
the iron of its hull,
allowed jagged edged holes to appear
they had no intention to repair,
and left its ropes mould
with no strength to pull.
I studied its newspaper photograph.
It seemed such a waste,
a savable loss, so unfair.
I smiled in my mind
to remember a time,
simpler, more kind,
when I was a schoolboy,
and I stood on the shore,
among shells and seaweed,
and I said to my friend:
“Look, there’s the fish and chip boat,
sailing for the Isle of Man.
I wonder why they call it that,
the fish and chip boat?”
My friend did not answer,
for he did not know.
We watched the Royal Iris go,
cut its way silently
through the grey Irish Sea,
out from Liverpool Bay.
It was not one of the big ships,
not that impressive to me,
but it was lovely lit up with lights,
a magical sight, as the sun dipped in the west.
Yes, I remember the Royal Iris,
when I had all my life before me.
In many ways, that time was the best.


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