Poetry Power with Chris

This is a story about what it was like to serve on a nuclear submarine during the Cold War, and the aftermath

Cold War Patrol

I.

asleep in morse patterns deprivation of dreams

to escape from the beast moments on the beach

O2 set to minimum, crew’s berthings in peace

one hundred men below, one hundred days at sea

the north atlantic steals a submarine’s heat

a sweater and coffee i bought in cocoa beach

and pink floyd the wall word for word hey teacher

and i’d sit in the missile compartment to read

a tom clancy novel as the russian fleet sought me

i bought it in january at the base exchange

three months lump sum tore the enlisted club up

next day we got underway hungover, fired up

the power plant and the party was over till may

uniform rows stowed below like crew’s laundry

II.

it’s quiet and blue, more sleep is the clue

read, watch a movie, not much else to do

your days, in dreams, are spent back on the farm

until the next battlestations alarm

i head to sonar sleepy-eyed once again

for twelve hours of tracking soviet men

in simulations that aren’t simply ended

and drills designed to test your resolve

a hostile scenario allowed to devolve

into virtual attack, disbelief is suspended

i had real cans of coke and celestial seasonings

hanes beefy t’s cause the seas were so cold

wearing that sweater on christmas patrol,

blank memorexes, a couple of walkmen

a carton of smokes (to be sold)

tobasco and blueberry poptarts with frosting,

then whatever else i was told

talkin about camaros and kegs of blue ribbon

the girl back at home who won’t wait for you

as uncommon women uncommonly do

and that club down in Cocoa when liberty’s given

all that’s on the beach yet I’m still at sea

where I go deep to track the adversary,

lovingly classify your sounds, and study

in my mind living geometry, tactical poetry

subtly choose the approach i like,

silently flood my tubes and strike.

not quite so simple, life

though I tried to be a quick study

III.

Systemic sailor sleep deprivation

Consequence concealed on a subconscious level

My future revealed by a man who, disheveled

and unkempt, requested my kind contribution

Homeless in the Bean a routine, I’ll say this

he wasn’t straight to populate my distribution list

intact, tho one fact froze me flat in my Bostonians

The “Sub Vet” cap upon his nook n crannied cranium

and fate sets shipmates on different headings, it seems

but I know he wakes up sweatin to those same damn boat dreams

and I wonder if I’ll get his bed when I’m ready for the Soldier’s home

and if they’ll buy me whiskey so my head can rest a moment, so

I gave the guy a twenty storing karma as my last resort

he looked like I still owed him so I welcomed him ashore

a Globe obituary left on the next seat of the T

told me he’d accrued a star and fouled anchor after

thirty years at sea in the nuclear canoe club

and left behind no family, nor enemy sub.

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