BabyOregonian, Musings, Poems

Cargoes: Poem for a Wednesday

March 11, 2015

Lately, I’ve been dreaming of far off places again. Ted know this. As my head hits the pillow, I mumble fanciful wishes for plane tickets and foreign sublets and new horizons, unfamiliar sights and smells and tastes…

The siren’s song is everywhere.

I load little Lucie into her car seat, and we set out on the daily circuit around the city.

We have a new CD of poetry read aloud by Julie Andrews; her melodic voice fills the air as we drive (a pleasant jump from jazz radio) and briefly, ever so briefly, the poem Cargoes sweeps me away:

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

-John Masefield, Originally Published in Salt Water Poems, 1902

Ventures of the centuries distilled in child’s verse.

And under my breath I say Thank You.

Thank you for the reminder to draw soul from memories.

Thank you for a voyage to keep imagination’s magic alive in the mundane.

Thank you for a little waggish fun, too:

Family Car Corolla economizing fuel,
Parting Portland lanes and days for travelers ashore,
With a cargo of baby gear,
Stroller, diaper bag,
Music, poems, and memories of yore.


The poem Cargoes is one of many beautiful pieces featured in Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies. The book comes with a CD of Julie and her daughter Emma reading favorite excerpts aloud, and it’s become a fast favorite.

A note on the photos: these are the iconic dhow boats off the coastline of Tanzania, spotted during our travels in Zanzibar.

For another poem that makes my heart beat fast, check Ithaka (and the sweet pictures of Lucie from nearly 18 months ago). Follow the link, and the poem is shared about half-way down the post.

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