‘Ship-breaking’ by Hannah Lowe


These folks were not the victims of migration…these folks mean to survive – Stuart Hall

I watch old films of ship yards on the Clyde:
cranes ripping ships apart, their metal hides
peeled back by men in goggles wielding fire.
The shock of innards: girders, joists and wires,
a rusted funnel toppling in slow motion.
Those open flanks rain down the cabin’s foreign
detritus of flags and posters, turquoise charts
of distant oceans, photographs of sweethearts –

They tore the Ormonde up in ’52
for scrap. I google what I can. If you
were here, you’d ask me why I care so much.
I’d say it’s what we do these days, Dad – clutch
at history. I find old prints – three orphans
on a deckchair squinting at the sun; a crewman
with an arm around a girl, both smiling, windswept;
a stark compartment where you might have slept

and I recall that old trunk in our attic –
cracked leather, rusted clasps – my box of tricks
you said, you said you’d lost the only key.
Your home, the ship you sailed, those miles of sea
were locked inside. And now my mind replays
a ciné-film: the young man on a gangway –
the trilby tilted, pocket hankie, his smartest gear
and his stride so well-rehearsed – it says I’m here.
(first published in Ormonde, Hercules Editions, 2014)
Hannah Lowe‘s most recent book is a memoir, Long Time No See. Her second poetry collection, Chan, will be published in June 2016.