Charles Henry

FIREFLIES ON THE SEA

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: August 13, 2010
Awarded: August 13, 2010
Alarm bells and snowflakes lighting up the sky
Machine gun tracers from some fearing man
Who thought he saw a target in the dark
A flash, a bang: torpedo found its mark

Have you seen fireflies dancing in the sea
Those little lights so ghostly in the waves
Cresting and wallowing in the swell
Marking the spots of a private hell.

Life jacket with battery power
A small red light, a firefly leeward
Of what had been a ship, a she
Marking the spot of what had been, a he

One of many, a sodden wretched corpse
No grave, no stone to mark the spot
Of a man who sailed the sea,
Of a ship which used to be.

Have you seen the fireflies on the swell
Then you must remember well
That dreadful fear, that you might also be
A firefly dancing on the sea.

Author’s Note: Originally Written 1946 as a remembrance. There is a natural tendency to acknowledge the bravery of the people involved. However there was also a fear which although was hidden always remained with you. I wrote this after WW2 was over as a reminder of the thoughts that lurked in the back of the minds of all seafaring men. “Snowflakes” was the slang for the magnesium flares that were fired at night if a convoy was attacked; they lit up the sky outlining all ships leaving you with a feeling of being vulnerable.