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This poem was written in Bermuda in 1991. Wendy and I were living on our sailboat and working at the NASA tracking station. We may be the only mathematicians to sail into a tropical island and get jobs as mathematicians. One morning we decided to take breakfast at Ariel Sands, a hotel along the southeast coast which has lovely beaches interspersed with rocks and reefs. It was cloudy with rain squalls passing overhead and the sea was pounding the shore. Tourists, who had a limited time to enjoy this beautiful island, were complaining about the weather, but we were enjoying the view and the atmosphere that day. In the poem, the ship referred to is a sailboat, about 40 feet long and with a crew of perhaps four people.

Ariel Sands
by Edwin Paul Cutler


What a marvelous place to start the day
With cloud filled skies and breakfast on shore
We dream together of far away lands
While other guests mope and deplore.

Off this beautiful land, down in the deep
Lie scattered the dreams we are told
Of ships from the tropics headed for home
Each with a hull full of gold.

We all stop to watch a ship with full sail
Unaware she is heading for grief
With a following wind, come running in
Where the sea is pounding the reef

Tall spars point, where the sun should have been
The dull, dark sea is more like a slough
We each take a breath all fearing her death
When she sinks in a deepening trough,

Hull down in the haze we watch in a daze
Her white cotton sails dripping with rain
Fill with fresh breeze and strain at her knees
Until slowly she rises again.

A squall with dark clouds curtains the scene.
A drama, the end of an act.
Unable to see through the blinding spray
We each knew the ship should have tacked

We watch and we listen for the ending smash
Of a ship doomed to death at sea
We hold our breath for the thundering crash
And a beach strewn with shipwreck debris

BOOM! rattles glasses and stops every word
The report of a cannon high on the hill
Breath held and bated, we watched and we waited
The storm roared on but time stood still

Breaking masts sound like gunshots from seaward
The crew screams to shore in a lull
Wanton winds drive her to us from leeward
Hungry rocks reach to gouge at her hull

When the sun broke through and the curtain rose
We look where the wreck should have been
We each gave a shout as the ship came about
To slip out to sea again

The guests glance around, comrades in fable
All glad that no one was hurt
Just after we cheered the waiter appeared
And smiling we ordered desert.

 

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