June 6

Across the wide Atlantic,
and many decades,
grey waters surge.

Here, just off the Carolina coast,
beneath noon skies, a crewman tallies
vehicles on the deck of the Hatteras ferry,
checks the heavy chocks blocking tires
of the sleek RV at the rear;  his companion stretches
the steel chain, tests its clasps, nods.
No need for words.
                    No permission for words;
        words are dangerous--"loose lips sink ships"--
        wordlessly, the commander lifts his hand,
        and the landing craft moves into the channel,
        churning pre-dawn waters.

                                  Behind the ferry
a frothy wake fascinates the children--
lots of children, dressed in cheerful shirts
and bright shorts; some dare to lean
over the rail, others hold tight
to their parents' hands.
                           Barely-bearded boys
        hold tightly to their parents' photographs,
        or those of wives or infants, or medallions
        bearing the likeness of Christ or St. Christopher.
        Some whisper prayers; some contrive  jokes,
        then stifle nervous laughter, lest its echoes
        signal waiting ears on the Normandy shore.

On the Hatteras shore, patient vacationers
guard fishing lines, watch for telltale bobbles.
Nearby a graceful squadron of pelicans,
fourteen in all, glide and swerve, inches
above the inlet's gleaming surface.
        of planes, far beyond counting, blacken
        the night sky further, their ferocious roar
        providing prelude to the fierce staccato
        of artillery fire raining the Normandy coast
        from the armada lining the horizon.

Lining the ferry rail, suntanned tourists
armed with camera and camcorder
shoot onto film the fishers on the shore,
the bare ribs of cottages-to-be,
a yacht off starboard, flags cheerily waving.
        No flags visible in slate-gray channel air,
        but clusters of bright shellbursts accompanied by
        the clamor of guns speaking their unspeakable language.

Above the ferry, white gulls clutter the air,
squabble, and complain to passengers.
To the east, in serene blue skies,
great white clouds swell and billow.
        Still further east, against night skies
        white parachutes swell and billow;
        hundreds of men with blackened faces
        drop silently into alien land.

The ferry eases into port; chains fall,
passengers board luggage-crammed vehicles,
gun motors, then, given the signal,
lurch to the quiet shore of Ocracoke.
        The landing craft lowers its steel ramp;
        soldiers hoist seventy-five pound burdens,
        move forward, step chin-deep into icy waters
        and a burning barrage of bullets.

Eight miles down Ocracoke, a grizzled grandpa
hoists his wriggling grandson to his shoulder,
points to the shaggy ponies grazing
in their fenced refuge.
                                   At this moment,  
        beyond Omaha Beach, a man kneels  
        before one of nine thousand crosses,  
        bows his white head. Beside him, his wife
        rubs his shoulder.   Pain, securely stowed
        for fifty years, leaks from his eyes, his pores.
        His fingers reach to touch the name.  They tremble.

And grey waters surge.

Sally Buckner

If you've any comments on this poem, Sally Buckner would be pleased to hear from you.

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