Two Poems

Navy Witch

A ship’s a hole steel punches in the sea.
But our ship? Future crater. Floating bomb
carrying fuel, named for a volcanic,
dormant Maui peak. We sat at pier side
each night, Supply Center Oakland. The base
famous for its CO—the father of
god-of-rock Jim Morrison, “Lizard King.”
Haze-gray paint on everything. Our berth-
ing compartment held sixty guys. Young, bi
journalist, I’d stay at the Flying J
“kleen rooms” motel one night each payday week,
leave USS Haleakala. All
my shipmates but one thought a blonde, her name
Nora, waited at my cab ride’s end, on
one of those vibrating beds you have to
plug quarters in. The truth? An envelope.
Q & A worksheets. Spells by mail. Antique
ritual knife cutting symbols in air.
Self-trinity of sailor, witch, queer—years
torpedoed, sunk, before I could admit
you three to me, myself, I. We’re tabu.
Volanticas, Roman witches, some of
which were fed to volcanoes. I see how
exposure’s constant threat warped. No phoenix,
yester-me survived and left the navy.
Absolved with time my life absorbs its selves.

Sea of Noise

for Steve Cox

You can hear shrimp fart and whales sing
five hundred miles away through sonar headsets.
Running close alongside a French sub
we heard the crew singing through the sea
between our bulkheads. Submarines are blind
as worms. They never knew we were there. 
We went to monitor a Russian sub in distress.
It couldn’t rise to the surface. Just a matter of time
before it lost buoyancy. We were there to pick up
new sound signatures from the Russian surface ships
encircling the site. They were there to prevent
anyone from salvaging their secrets. 
This was during the cold war. The eighties.
Those sailors knew what was coming.
We heard each watertight compartment implode.
Everyone was silent in the time between each
muffled crunch. A few of the younger guys cried.
For once, we couldn’t ignore the black.

—Mike Kriesel, Aniwa, WI