Unexpected

I walked past Fortress Hill station
In a dull, grey Hong Kong today
And found the ghost of my father
Had been following all the way.
And when I turned to face him
He vanished in the crowd,
While I just stood there gasping,
Fighting my way free of his shroud.

But he’d opened a door to the past
That wasn’t so easy to close,
And I was left with a yearning
His presence had once more imposed.
He’d never been easy to talk to,
Though I’d dearly love to have tried,
So I was faced with no option
But to find somewhere private and cry.

Stephen Tomkins
6 March 2018
Hong Kong

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Bourbon Dolphin

bourbon-dolphin5

Mum said when I turned fourteen years,
She’d put aside maternal fears
And I could go to work with Dad –
My dream, a dream so long I’ve had.
My Dad’s the Captain of a ship,
And I’m to go on his next trip.
Excited? Yes! You bet I am!
At last I feel just like a man!

Dad’s ship supports the North Sea rigs:
Supplies them, moves them, helps them dig.
He shows me the survival suits,
All in one piece, complete with boots.
We check the vests and radio;
The lines are in! Away we go!
I’m so excited I could burst;
Mum always seems to fear the worst!

Soon a massive chain’s aboard
And, on the bridge, no one is bored!
The work continues through the night.
By late next day something’s not right.
The ship tilts sharply to the left,
Then rights itself –  we all draw breath.
Suddenly, it’s on its side,
I’m on my back and terrified.

The ship continues over now,
We’re on the bridge but upside down!
Dad pulls me close and hugs me tight
And says it all will be alright.
The water takes my breath away –
It has such force, we can but pray.
The last thing that I ever hear
Is Dad’s love whispered in my ear.

Stephen Tomkins
23 December 2016
Perth

Author’s note: On April 12, 2007, the Bourbon Dolphin, an Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessel, capsized while working in the North Sea. The ship sank three days later. Aboard were Captain Oddne Remøy and his fourteen-year-old son, David, who was on work experience. They were among the eight persons who lost their lives that day.

While based on media coverage of the event and the official accident report, the above is a fictitious account of what may have happened. Above all, this poem is a tribute to those who lost their lives.

The Festering Season

It’s the Festering Season all over again:

A most joyous time for all women and men.

Passed a whole year has for old wounds to mend

And breed the good will that such healing attends.

 

But old wounds are good wounds and this time of year

Is perfect for festering with wine and with beer.

A thought may be thought but it’s best not unleashed

Unless thought right through, lest the tension’s increased.

 

Still, why spoil the fireworks of family and friends –

So skilfully opening those old wounds again?

So, sit back, enjoy this year’s floor-show and dinner.

Just stay on the sidelines and you’ll be a winner.

 

Stephen Tomkins

10 December 2016

Singapore

I’m Not Crazy!

Insanity runs in my family,

The author of constant calamity.

He sped to my sister

And tenderly kissed her,

And then rushed over to me.

 

Detected in me fertile ground

And smiled at the treasure he’d found.

As he messed with my head,

I retreated to bed –

To this day, that’s where I’ll be found.

 

Stephen Tomkins

15 February 2016

Perth

Don’t Take Me For Granted

table

An old wooden table surrounded by chairs,
Fruit of the forest though now no one cares,
Hewn by a craftsman, unknown and unseen,
A tribute to skills now replaced by machine.

Left by the roadside, alone and forlorn,
The table is stained and the chairs are all torn.
A once-prized possession, it took pride of place
Near new, shiny kitchen with refurbished grace.

Convenor of gath’rings and meals to be shared,
Bearer of countless teacups and éclairs,
Witness to laughter and shedding of tears,
Minder of birthday cakes, nibblies and beers.

Silent observer of aging and games,
Patient companion of tapestry frames,
Insatiable voyeur of gossip and jokes,
Of lunch with the ladies and beer with the blokes.

A family member and once well-regarded,
Is no longer needed and so is discarded.
We’re just like that table, I’m sorry to say:
Once no longer useful, we’re left to decay.

But life doesn’t have to end on such a note,
I’m sure you’ll agree this is no time to gloat:
Old age is a lucrative business for some,
So please take the time to go visit your Mum!

Stephen Tomkins
27 September 2015