Lydia Kennaway

Photo by Seán Kiely

Foreign Object Damage Prevention Walk aboard an Aircraft Carrier
from A History of Walking

When the sun has broken free of the horizon, before
the roaring day begins, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder,
one hundred bodies across the deck, port to starboard,

heads bowed, and a long road to cover in a slow march.
Later, the planes will come and go. It drills into your marrow,
the noise of jet engines. They’d breathe in bottles, hammers,

suck up rags and bolts, greedy for anything left on deck
if we let them. Once we saw a flash of gold against
the wide blue sky. Then the plane began to dive.

For days, we handled small objects –
pen tops, wire offcuts, pennies –
with a kind of fearful reverence. At night

we’d dream the Walk, searching on a deck
that buckled and heaved or turned
to water in the way of dreams.

But now it’s morning, and we stand
shoulder-to-shoulder from port
to starboard. We bow our heads.

Always the Chaplain proposes inner prayer,
letting our measured pace turn the wheels
of meditation.

                       And always I think Who’s listening?
                       And always the words come.

This poem was first published by Strix magazine, issue no. 4. Lydia Kennaway’s pamphlet, A History of Walking, will be published by HappenStance in April 2019, from which she is going to read at the NCLA First Thursday this week. She is the 2017 winner of the Flambard Poetry Prize. Lydia’s poems were shortlisted for the 2018 Bridport Prize, and longlisted in the 2018 Rialto Nature and Place Poetry Competition and (three times) in the National Poetry Competition.  Other poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies including The Rialto and Any Change? Poetry in a Hostile Environment, edited by Ian Duhig (2018).


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