Poetry by John Kirkwood

Love ... Faith ... Early Work ... The Environment ... Odds & Ends

Death of a Steamship

In the steamy steamship bottom
Crouched the screaming power turbine,
Clung the hissing steamship boiler,
Turned the moaning driver gearing,
Paced the engineer of Cawamunga.
Full ahead was four-bells ringing
In the hold of Cawamunga.
Now the call was five-bells clanging,
Now the call was calling, shouting
"Call upon your turbine crouching,
Call upon your boiler boiling,
Speed our ship on groaning gearing."
Oh engineer of Cawamunga.
In the rigging shrieked the gale wind.
On the bow the pounding black tide --
To the stern lay coral death reef.
Shrieking, pounding came the typhoon,
Forcing back the Cawamunga.
Fighting had was Cawamunga,
Straining every steel sinew.
Keep the steamship Cawamunga
From the calling, clutching death reef,
Oh engineer of Cawamunga.
Fully five hours fought the steamship,
Fought the icy devil typhoon,
Fought with six-bell signals clanging.
Steady, steamship Cawamunga
Screaming, hissing, groaning, hoping,
Clawing, grinding, crying, dying.
Forced upon the pounding death reef,
Shattered was the Cawamunga.
Now the gull mourns for the steamship,
Over black bones in the dark surf,
Sighs and whimpers in the darkness,
For the engineer of Cawamunga.


The Sentinel

His beady eyes were ever on me,
Followed closely as I rode.
As staid a stance as ever met me.
Quivered not nor moved the toad.
Lumpy, green and vitreous he was -
A sentinel through dark and day.
Thus the winkless rookerie watchman
Crouched alone, a craft of clay.



Black feet
Brown feet
White feet
New feet
Old feet
Wet feet
Cool feet
Hot feet
Tired feet
Silent feet
Good feet
God's feet


The snow drifts down
On soft white feet
Slows, then waits, still
Drifts, drifts on.
White sheets slanting
Across my window pane
Halts, turns, and lightly
Drift, drift on.
Cold silent forms
Erase the window sill
Stirred by winter's breath, they
Drift, drift on.
Falling, drifting, slanting
From heaven's heights
Fleeting frozen patterns
Drift, drift, on.

Calling to Me

Down on the ocean edge
a green tide is sighing
Whispering tenderly
caressing the sand
Shimmering, motioning,
beckoning me.
My thoughts are there often,
and often my heart,
There with the seagulls
whose flapping and cries
Seem to be saying
"Rejoice we are free."
The seaside is laughing
and shouting to me.
Flee to its heartbeat,
Bound into the sea.
Joy is mine always
when there I can be.
With each cool murmur
with each subtle laugh,
The seaside is joyfully
calling to me.


This army is inhumane, filled with hate and fear and tears.
I stumble, numb, against my fallen brother and ask.
WHERE have truth and compassion gone?
Where are strength and sensitivity?
Where is love ?
What little pride the thinking soldier had,
Has been reduced to words.
Replaced by a misguided sense of revenge.
Blow for blow, death for death, atrocity for atrocity.
Any feeling of human compassion has been snubbed
By violence or squelched by power.
I CAN not!
I WILL not be part and partial to this massacre of human dignity.
Do with me what you will.
Say to me what you may.
I must go from the devil's own system.