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The Ice Ship

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Pyke, from his Massachusetts madhouse,
          envisioned it
as a divine craft, an Ark impervious to torpedoes.

ICE is with us, ICE will win this war,
          he wrote
Mountbatten. With a draft of one hundred and fifty feet,

two million tons displacement, it could carry
          one hundred
twin-engine planes, three thousand men,

and required no steel to assemble,
          only water and pulp.
Onboard, the men lived in cork-paneled cabins,

skated down corridors to deliver urgent messages.
          A miracle ship,
organically arisen from the element

it moved in, indistinguishable from its medium,
          formed by Nature’s design,
not the Royal Navy’s. Even her weaponry

resembled God’s own: “brine guns” which would
          encase the enemy
in ice like straw in glass, or block his harbor

will a flotilla of icebergs. Churchill himself approved
          draining White Bay
for its construction and ordered all cork

immediately diverted to Canada, where a prototype
          built by conscientious
objectors lasted through the summer

disguised as a boathouse. By then Allies
          had landed
in France, and the project was scrapped—

Mountbatten threatened to lock him up again,
          paying no attention
to a new plan for smuggling assassins

into Berlin in boxes marked “Officers Only”
          on the grounds
that the Germans were an obedient race.

Love and duty stir men to action, but war
          makes us dream:
before his suicide he shaved his beard,

head. Outside, wet snow fell hard against
          the city,
as though to clear it for another world.

Andrew Allport, “The Ice Ship” from The Ice Ship & Other Vessels, published by Proem Press. Copyright © 2008 by Andrew Allport. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Source: The Ice Ship & Other Vessels (Proem Press, 2008)
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The Ice Ship

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