Look up from your blueprints,
squint into the night.
Make out a mountain of ice.
Continue to play bridge.
When a tense minute has passed,
pull the engine-room telegraph handle
all the way to ‘Stop’
and as the grinding noise dies away
close the emergency doors.
Methodically don underwear, long stockings,
shoes, trousers, a Norfolk jacket –
or throw an overcoat over your pyjamas.
Now go back to your cabin to read,
taking a piece of ice as a souvenir –
about the size of a pocketwatch should do.
When the sea is up to your ankles,
joke about the soaked baggage – wonder aloud
what is in the letters you can see floating
around the abandoned mail room.
If caught behind a watertight door,
scramble up the escape ladders
that lace their way topside.
Shut the dampers. Draw the fires.
When the lights go out in boiler room no.5,
go aft for lanterns.
Drag your bed to the recreation deck.
Stuff your pockets with books, a revolver
and a compass.
The heavy silence of deserted rooms
has a drama of its own.
Be awake where they expect to find you
and know you have struck something.