A Pocket of Resistance: Fog

George and Sarah, i killed what remained of your Bulleit Rye, small batch, tonight. It was good, but not quite as good as Mr. Dickel’s, even his Old No 12 Sour Mash. Besides Mr. Bulleit and i have just been introduced. Old George Dickel and i go way, way back, and we have talked into the deep of many a night, as we have done tonight after my brief introduction to Mr. Bulleit.

Maureen has gone to bed. I should have. i must rise early for Friday morning golf. She does not have to rise until she is damn good and ready. i was closing up the evening, setting all for tomorrow, checking the last emails and Facebook postings, hoping to find i don’t know what when i realized i had started a poem this morning, which was incomplete. So George – Dickel that is – and i worked on it some more. Here it is, first draft, which is usually my last draft. One explanation: On old steam warships like destroyers, directly aft of the bridge was what then was called Combat Information Center, or “CIC.” It was all radar and plots in red light to not destroy “night vision” to provide the electronic picture of what was going on in actual combat or enhance the visual perception of the bridge watch during peacetime steaming, either reporting contacts showing on the radar long before they would be sighted visually, or assisting navigation during piloting coastal waters.

i consider myself a lucky man to have been at sea in the Navy before we became so sophisticated and electronic. It was a time, long gone, of a sense of self-reliance, where ship and mariners worked as one, a whole entity against the elements, especially in fog. i suspect i will make several revisions to this one. But George (Dickel), Mr. Bulleit, and i wanted to share it tonight.


i arose this morning to grayness;
morning light was suffused into the grayness;
the street and driveway were gray;
the bright house paints were muted
by the cast of gray mist;
the hills, even the sky itself had vanished
in the thick gray of the fog.

at sea, fog would envelop me and my ship
as if it were a cold, cold blanket
intent on plunging inside and extracting life’s breath
from me and from my ship:
gray unto gray unto gray unto gray;
“set the low visibility watch”
two deck seamen fight through the darkness,
the gray darkness
to the bullnose on the forecastle
the stern chock on the fantail
to peer into that darkness
more importantly to listen, listen
for a sound, a fog horn
hopefully far away
detecting a direction:
unlikely expectations,
the conning officer on the bridge
just hopes there are no other lonely transits
on the open sea
at least spotted on the radar
in the red lit combat center aft of the bridge
to warn him of the impending danger
as the midwatch wears on into the dark night.

Yet, open ocean fog is a piece of cake
compared to entering port
in the murky mist of coastal fog,
the sea detail watch on the bridge
cannot see the bow, much less the channel buoys
the watch relies on combat again:
“radar holds us on track,
“twenty yards to right of mid-channel,
“nearest shoal water two hundred yards
“off the port beam,”
the sound-powered phone talker
repeats the words of the CIC watch officer
to the bridge watch
while the navigator stares at the chart
while his quartermasters plot the course
with their own radar repeater
confirming combat’s report
as the conn and the captain
peer into the gray nothingness
hoping to see some dark figure
that might be a building or landfall
from which they might see
through the gray fog
where they really are.

1 thought on “A Pocket of Resistance: Fog

  1. I love this! Very evocative – I can feel the cold wetness and almost shiver as I read this piece, though I am warm and dry indoors in a hospital sleep room in San Antonio. Although I never really sailed, living as I did in San Francisco and Marin for 30 years I became very well acquainted with the cold, wet embrace of the billowing coastal fog and the hauntingly beautiful sound of the foghorns.

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