'Brothers of the Phin'

April 24, 2018

 

                        I chanced upon a sailor once
                        with an emblem on his chest.
                        It appeared to be two angry sharks
                        on a trash can for a rest.


                        His white hat was wrinkled and dirty;
                        his neckerchief tied too tight
                        and he had only one eye open
                        as he staggered through the night.


                        He was young and scrawny and wiry;
                        with knuckles cracked and oozing.
                        I could tell from the way he looked and smelled
                        he'd spent the night whorin' and boozin'.


                        But as he pulled abreast, he squared his hat
                        and said "Sir, do you have a light?
                        I'm due back aboard by quarter to four
                        Or the COB will be settin' me right."


                        As I fumbled around for my lighter
                        he pulled some smokes from his sock
                        "and I'll be damned lucky to make it," he muttered
                        'Cause I'm steamin' against the clock."


                        Through the flame of my well-worn Zippo
                        I could see a smile on his face.
                        "But, you know -- it was damn well worth it.
                        That 'Bell's' is a helluva place."


                        He sucked the smoke deep down in his lungs
                        and blew smoke rings up towards the moon
                        Then he rolled up his cuffs, pushed his hat to the back
                        and said "Maybe there'll be a cab soon."


                        In spite of the time he was losing
                        He was wanting to shoot the breeze
                        So we sat on the curb, like two birds on a perch
                        as he talked of his life on the seas.


                        I asked about the thing on his chest
                        and he looked at me with a grin.
                        Then he squared his hat, snubbed out his smoke
                        and said "I'm a Brother of the 'Phin."


                        "I'm one of the boys who go under the sea
                        where the lights from above don't shine;
                        Where mermaids play and Neptune is king
                        and life and death intertwine."


                        "Life on a boat goes deep in your blood
                        and nothing on earth can compare
                        to the feeling inside as she commences a dive
                        going deep on a hope and a prayer."


                        "I've sailed some fearsome waters
                        down below the raging main
                        and I've heard that old boat creak and groan
                        like the wheels of a railroad train."


                        "It's the one place on earth where there ain't no slack
                        where you don't have more than you need;
                        where each man is prince of his own little space
                        and each lives by the submarine creed."


                        "There ain't much I've done in this fickle life
                        that would cause other men to take note,
                        But I've walked in the steps of some mighty fine men
                        who helped keep this country afloat."


                        "They slipped silently through the layers
                        down below that raging main
                        while up above enemy men-o'-war
                        laid claim to the same domain."


                        "Brave sailors were they
                        in their sleek boats of steel
                        silently stalking their prey
                        and closing in for the kill."


                        "They died as they lived
                        unafraid, proud and free
                        Putting all on the line
                        to secure liberty."


                        "Their bones now rest in glory
                        down in Neptune's hallowed ground
                        But their souls stand tall at the right hand of God
                        Awaiting the klaxon's next sound."


                        "So, it's more than a 'thing' that I wear on my chest
                        It's a badge of the brave, proud and true.
                        It's a tribute to those who have gone here before
                        riding boats that are still overdue"


                        "It's the "Dolphins" of a submariner
                        worn proudly by the few
                        who've qualified at every watch
                        and touched every bolt and screw."


                        "They know the boat on which they sail
                        like they know their very soul
                        and through the fires of hell or the pearly gates
                        they're ready for each patrol."


                        "But when in port they take great sport
                        standing out from all the rest.
                        For deep inside they burn with pride
                        for the dolphins on their chest."


                        Then he stood erect, squared his hat
                        and pulled his neckerchief down to the 'V'
                        He rolled down his cuffs, put his smokes in his sock
                        and squinted back towards the sea.


                        "I can hear them diesels calling
                        So I'd best be on my way.
                        We'll be punchin' holes in the ocean
                        when the sun peeks over the bay."


                        As I watched him turn and walk away
                        I felt honored to know such men.
                        for they bring life to Duty, Honor, Country
                        these "Brothers of the 'Phin."
                        ***
                        Larry Dunn July 2003

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