Tales of Old
"Tie those sails down,"  screamed the captain to his mates.
 "Make sure they're secure, make no mistakes."
 "Be ready for the big one coming from the west."
 "Don't worry about her sinking, this baby's the best."

 Black clouds and fierce rain sliced through our path.
 We wondered if we'd make it through the oceans wrath.
 Men called their wives names out on each plunging lurch.
 They prayed for their souls with no need for a church,

 Where do you lie, Santa Clara? Somewhere on the ocean floor.
 The ghosts of time will haunt my mind, forever more.
 Where are your men, Santa Clara? The friends I could not find.
 When I awoke, I was alone. To face the fear in my mind.

 Forty in all, aged twenty to sixty-three.
 Why am I alive, Why God only me?
 The ocean opened up and swallowed us whole,
 The list was so great, we lost all control.

 Water crushed us down men fought for their lives.
 We thought of our children, our mothers, our wives.
 None of us knew if we'd come out alive,
 All of us tried as she plunged and she dived.

 Here alone in the water with nothing in sight.
 Repeating prayers through the day, fearing the back of the night.
 Clinging adrift, upon a galley table.
 Catching rare moments of sleep, whenever I was able.

 With nothing to eat and salt water to drink.
 The sun so scorching, you could not think.
 Time had escaped me, day became night.
 With time I lost my memory, soon after my fright.

 Here is one man, Santa Clara, a man who made it through.
 I will not fall or accept, this fate bestowed upon you.
 Help me live, Santa Clara, pray to Neptune for me.
 I've prayed to the God of man, please pray to your God of the sea.

 A fortnight well past, living in a non-existant state.
 With nothing to do but pray and wait.
 Catching precious drops of rain water to drink.
 Exercising my mind, while my body continued to shrink.

 I was not even aware I had been found for days.
 I lay there dreaming, fighting off black crushing waves.
 Later, I learned, nine had survived.
 I wondered how they made it, what kept them alive.

 Where do you lie, Santa Clara? Somewhere on the ocean floor.
 The ghosts of time will haunt my mind, forever more.
 Where are your men, Santa Clara? The friends I left behind.
 You could not conceive, the hell you left in my mind.

                                                       Patricia Cree Aiken
Back