Poem: Rockets and Blue Lights

rockets and blue lights

Rockets and Blue Lights

Nothing is distinct,
the perfect capture of storms at the edge of the sea.
Fog and swirling.
Waves crashing.
A few watchers on the shore.
Rockets and blue lights fired high.
Warnings against the shoals.
The fishing boat nearly swamped,
barely controlled,
knowing the horrible death that awaits,
unable to turn away.

A perfect painting,
full of implication more than detail,
and yet,
all too real.
Your stomach sinks
having lived the moment,
suddenly unsure if survival was a blessing,
or simply a chance to relive the horror
again, and yet again.

About this poem

The painting is called “Rockets and Blue Lights (close at hand) to Warn Steamboats of the Shoals” by Joseph Turner.  It hangs in the Clark Museum, often lost in a room full of better-known masterpieces. But I go to it again and again when I visit.

We’ve all been there, when we know of a terrible outcome, did all we could to warm someone, and yet, as if they had no eyes and ears to see or hear, they continue into the maw. Or maybe we were the ones rushing into the maw, and that sudden realization of our destruction became real.


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