As what goes down must come up and find its place
so the Unsinkable, as if just launched from Belfast,
rises majestically to the icy surface –
the floating palace we built and swore would last.
Reassembled on deck, first-class passengers and steerage
divide by instinct, each knowing their place,
peasant, bourgeois and peerage
twiddling their thumbs in the chilly silence
as Lord Something smiles feebly, being nice
to inferiors till, with greedy grin, pushing forward,
a man from the land of the living breaks the ice,
photographer in tow, hotfoot from the tourist board,
greeting the risen to the century’s biggest party
which – he flushes, speaks fast – has all the makings
of packed hotels, investors, spectaculars (not too arty)
and, for the dead – he insists – ten per cent of the takings.
Stiffly, lords and underlings shake each other’s hand,
loosening pre-Somme manners, blinking at the camera clicking
and trying, in these classless times, to understand
why wrecks and bones and letters are ripe for the picking.
If you have any comments on this poem, Peter Adair
would be pleased to hear from you.