The screeching oak planks and the sudden shock
announce the gale has pushed them too far east,
trapping the whaler on a hidden rock –
the broken molar of a howling beast.
She’s listing port. He knows what he should do:
furl sails and cut the masts before she tips,
supply and board the boats. Then what? The crew
awaits the first command from his pursed lips.
At best they’ll reach Tahiti. Odds are narrow
they’ll find it, though. He braces for the worst:
short straws, scraped femurs cracked to suck the marrow,
exposure, madness, all-consuming thirst,
until their blood congeals and sets them free.
He grasps the rail and stares into the sea.