ADDENDUM TO THE SAFETY OFFICER’S ACCOUNT
. When the spanwire
Snapped like a line mooring Seaman Holt
To this world, the severing released a flood
Of paper from his body. I had to fill
Every sheet with words.
. A month washed by–
I’d written the letter to his family,
The accident report, the memoranda
To the various departments that had fed
And clothed and paid him, my journal entry.
His face began to lose its puzzled look,
Dissolving in the darkness of my thoughts.
The Shore Patrol had fished him out of bars,
Disorderly and drunk; he’d been written up
For ragged dungarees, skipping watch
On the quarterdeck and unrep duties
On fueling details. His final day, though,
He was on that rig.
. And then Personnel
Called for a Terminal Evaluation.
In every category on that form–
Skills, discipline, personal appearance–
I wrote a 4.0. The yeoman typed
From this a “smooth eval” which I proofread:
The comma at its end I whited out
To a period.
“Addendum to the Safety Officer’s Account” is reprinted from Crush Depth (Truman State University Press, 2009) and The New Republic.
Michael Spence has driven public-transit buses in the Seattle area full-time for twenty-eight years. His poems have appeared recently in The Gettysburg Review, The Hudson Review, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review, and Tar River Poetry; other work is forthcoming in The New Criterion and Tampa Review. A bus-driving poem of his was chosen as a finalist for the James Hearst Prize and will appear in the Spring 2013 issue of The North American Review. His third book, Crush Depth, appeared in 2009 from Truman State University Press.