Some strange, sucker-barnacled club slams into the deck
while all around the starboard lee, more rise, white cobras
in a mist lit by distress flares.

The purser smokes his pipe and watches,
impassive as a clay idol. Arms slop over the gunwale
and shirtless deckhands slap them back

with shuffleboard tangs and boathooks;
grooved suckers unkiss the brackish planking with wet,
reluctant pops. It is a sad dance:

each tentacle, retreating with its heart-shaped head
full of splinters, its numb flesh gouged to the muscle,
a shred of ballgown snagged on a fluke.