The Millihelen

It never looks warm or properly daytime
in black-and-white photographs the sheer cliff-
face of the ship still enveloped in its scaffolding
backside against the launching cradle
ladies lining the quay in their layered drapery
touching their gloves to their lips and just as
They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships rises
from choirboys’ mouths in wisps and snatches
and evil skitters off and looks askance
for now a switch is flicked at a distance
and the moment swollen with catgut-
about-to-snap with ice picks hawks’ wings
pine needles eggshells bursts and it starts
grandstand of iron palace of rivets starts
moving starts slippery-sliding down
slow as a snail at first in its viscous passage
taking on slither and speed gathering in
the Atlas-capable weight of its own momentum
tonnage of grease beneath to get it waterborne
tallow soft soap train oil a rendered whale
this last the only millihelen her beauty
slathered all over the slipway
faster than a boy with a ticket in his pocket
might run alongside it the bright sheet
of the Lough advancing faster than a tram
heavy chains and anchors kicking in
lest it outdoes itself straining up
to a riot of squeals and sparks lest it capsizes
before its beginning lest it drenches
the aldermen and the ship sits back in the sea
as though it were ordinary and wobbles
ever so slightly and then it and the sun-splashed
tilted hills the railings the pin-striped awning
in fact everything regains its equilibrium.