Fine dark stripe

by Rosemary Norman

(John Torrington 1825 – 1846)

If I were young
        and a man and
                square shouldered

enough I’d choose
        a shirt like his –
                the ice in its fine

dark stripe on white
        warmed as it was
                when he first wore it

before the fever
        burned through him
                and shrank him away

and his shipmates
        dressed him in it
                for burial – left him

in the perfect cold
        intact and like himself
                then strayed in twos and

threes or however it was
        to where they lay down
                obscurely in their clothing.