Saturday, August 4, 2012

Poetics: Disaster Vacation Junkie

dam, Branson

Our fascination with disaster as an attraction
is somewhat disturbing--- flocking to it,
perhaps attempting to understand
what no one can

On vacation, in Branson
you’ll find most anything to occupy y
our attention:

     strap yourself in a cage and be shot
     to the clouds---0-60 in flat seconds, upside down 
     half the time---American Idol finalists, shows galore
     a fish hatchery for the naturalist, outlets-outlets-outlets
     (free fudge) putt-putt, amusement park, roadside 
     attractions, ozark mountains--- 

We choose touring the Titanic, already knowing our fate, 
the prop-ellor over our heads as we wait in the lobby
is foreboding, all 800 & some feet ready to sink
for our pleasure---

Touch the iceberg & feel your fingers burn-by the end
we’ll submerge them til our joints hurt
after only 18 seconds, imagine waiting, hope leaking
like feeling as you cling to the wreckage, looking
for loved ones & LoSinG (shiveRteeTHc-c-c-latter)

I am William Minahan, a doctor
I don’t make it, but got my name on the wall
what FAME! (you’d think people’d be more solemn)

The musicians played til the end, none even
trying to get in a lifeboat---first, popular tunes
then hymns, small comfort to ease the passage,

I trace words in the glass:

     “we were a mess of hopeless dazed humanity
      attempting…to keep
      our breath to the last possible moment”

Oh, how I understand Jack, but my kids don’t
they laugh and laugh as they try to climb the tilting deck
I, staring into the eyes of the porter, all beard
& felt hat, hand in his pocket fingering a watch
it’s almost time, it’s almost time - he just doesn’t know it

Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon gets the last word in
as we take our first watery breath

     “the possibility of being able to help anyone
      never occurred to me…”

exactly

& we leave,
souvenir plush stuffed ship in hand
             too fascinated to believe

Over at dVerse today, I am hosting Poetics, where we will be turning our eye on history. Actually we did enjoy the museum. One of those places I wont return too but enjoyed once. Particularly fond of the pictures by Francis Brown that were found in a trunk at his death. The only know pictures of life aboard the Titanic. Pick your point in history and get writing. I will open the doors at 3 pm EST.

83 comments:

Mary said...

Good morning, Brian.

Mary said...

When I think of Branson, I think of music; but it sounds like it has more to offer. I have visited the cemetery in Halifax where many Tittanic dead are buried. a somber place. There is something about disaster that captivates us for sure. But in a museum it doesn't seem quite real. Seems more like being on the set of a movie, I think. But a cemetery with gravestones and names is another experience entirely. Iyour write made me think here.

the walking man said...

It is hard for me to Imagine Branson as all that. I was there once when it only 1 amusement/water park.

What Mary said about Halifax (my only foreign port of call while in the Navy) and what I saw but didn't feel in that graveyard there is how I feel now every time I am able to get to Arlington. In Halifax I never had to ask why?

Dave King said...

Stupendous stuff!
History in the flesh, no less. I began by thinking it all a bit crass (the museum, not the poem!), but warmed to it as I read on.

kaykuala said...

History in all its grandeur! We were not there. We're spared the panic, the pain and the sufferings. But to us it's lots of info to know! Nice write!

Hank

Lorraine said...

My gosh this is excellent I felt every minute, heaven forbid you ever visit the Holocaust Museum, I've read hundreds of survivor's memoire and had to stop, just so I could breathe again...on the Titanic there when peope drowned it was at least in clean, albeit cold water..

Claudia said...

sometimes i think our fascination with disaster as an attraction has to do with our own fears.. we try to feel how the fear of others may have felt and what it would do to us to kinda be prepared for our own fears...ok..not sure if that makes sense to anyone else but me...smiles...love how you captured the experience and mix it with your thoughts..some good wisdom in this..love the quotes as well..they're so real..in the face of catastrophes people get real i guess and may sound weird but love that the musicians didn't stop playing..maybe i would've joined and listened to them cause i bet that was the most real music ever..

Grace said...

What an interesting prompt Brian ~

Having seen the movie Titanic, I can only imagine how tragic it must have been, shiveRtee waiting for icy waters. And I like the last quote, its in those moments, if we reach out, we can help others.

And regarding my haiku post, I was describing an old tradition of courtship and included this as part of my note.

Daydreamertoo said...

How strange, the Sunday whirl words are all to do with a boat and I am putting something together for the Titanic.
This is deeply touching in that, you felt the sorrow of it all. The lives about to be lost to the ice cold depths and the souls that were doomed as kids about you were seeing it as fun. We humans are a strange breed in that we are drawn to watching disasters and yet, so glad it isn't us it's happening to.
Another absolutely fabulous write Brian. :)

ayala said...

I think that Claudia is right and some of our fascination come from our own fears...good capture of the past and the present. I always found it interesting that they kept playing the music to the end..amazing courage I think...

DJan said...

Wow, I felt like I was there. Brrrr! This is a really evocative poem, and even before I knew what piece of history it came from, I was pretty sure it was the Titanic.

izzy said...

Whew- the cold of that iceberg and water and clinging to whatever debris! I am told one of my aunts was a survivor- but I don't recall ever having a conversation with her about it...

Daniel said...

Different eyes, different perspectives. You solemn and retrospective. Your kids living it up. Perhaps that is as it should be, huh?

Chantel said...

"ready to sink for our pleasure..." A haunting line, this. Reminds me in a way, of our appetite for horror movies--such morbid entertainment frightens me a bit; what it says about us.

I can almost imagine that the gleeful squeals of children during your visit might have echoed like the screams of the dieing...

Monkey Man said...

tgs at the heart, brilliant as always

Susan said...

Climbing up the deck . . . it is framed as adventure, so why not play? The point is, it is not real--it is theatre. Aristotle said that Imitation is the greatest pleasure whereas being at the point of origin is horrible--but we must know it is imitation. I tell Aristotle I disagree, but watching the crowds in the theatre of horror, I change my tune. Which is why I love this poem-it has the 3 perspectives--the "objectivity" of history museums, the bemusement of you, and the playing of the children who did not choose this playground, but use it as proffered. (The Holocaust museums are framed quite differently.) An your title here is actually hilarious!

Mama Zen said...

I think that museum would give me nightmares!

Paula Wooters said...

Disaster Vacations... yes, I've had a few of those. None have reached Titanic proportions, though I confess I have been to Branson once, long ago.

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah disaster brings people in flocks
To buildings or docks
I guess for the shock and awe
Or to say they saw
And interesting vacation it surely sounds like
As you try to take a tilting deck hike
And The Halifax thing Mary said
Was never in my head
And I'm like 5 minutes away
haha shows how much I know about my bay

ladyfi said...

Amazing writing - but spooky to think the Titanic is now a game for kids...

hedgewitch said...

Too fascinated to believe. A fine write here, brian. Your growth as a poet has been remarkable, just in the short time I've known you. This is a clean, direct and many-layered piece that touches on so many aspects of who we really are it's scary. Disaster is like sex in war--you feel life most strongly when you know you could die any minute.

ordinarylifelessordinary said...

I love how you weave the words on the glass into this, they are so powerful and work brilliantly to give this piece poignancy and relevance in the modern day. Thanks Brian, awesome as ever.

rosaria williams said...

We do want to experience the worst and live to tell about it, don't we?
Yet...
I love how you told the story, and how each character added the poignant truth here.

Teri M said...

Sounds like a city we will have to visit someday, especially if they have fudge!

Dana Dampier said...

I've been to Branson several times as a child and remember enjoying it very much. I'm glad you guys did too.

Your poem pulled at my heart... just to imagine the fear, the chaos of the moment.

Hopefully your prompt will pull my brain from it's own vacation and back into reality so I can write!

She Writes said...

I have often thought this too. How we slow down in traffic to LOOK at an accident. Why is that? I wonder. The museum sounds interesting. Your boys sound fun! I love how you added their laughter to this.

Laurie Kolp said...

Sounds like a great time was had by all... most museums I've visited are one-timers, but then again I haven't been to a lot of places.

Magpie said...

While a teaching assistant, one of our autistic students' focus was the Titanic. He could tell you anything you might want to know...details that would mean nothing to me, but to him they were important and worth remembering. It's good that someone remembers and hopefully we, as a whole, learn something.

Geraldine said...

Interesting to consider Brian. Why are people so drawn to disasters etc.. is it because they can look from the outside and breathe a sigh of relief, maybe even a nervous giggle that they came out unscathed, for now, this time.

Interesting post as always here. I hope your weather's cooled a bit.

Happy Weekend, G

Susan Daniels said...

Excellent, Brian! We do as a species seem to be drawn to disaster.

David F. Barker said...

Fascinating, Brian once again. And you're right, we are fascinated about disaster, as if tragedy is almost required! (No, I don't mean that). Do you think we are all being orchestrated by some evil genius? Could be.
As for the Titanic, one of my favourite things to say to folks at the moment is that in 1912, when it sunk, Great Britain (or England as many Americans still like to call it) was a superpower. Now, in 2012, we can hardly run ourselves.
Great poem, Brian.

Dulce said...

OMG
What a visit! Your wit exceeds imaginatio, my dear B.

Daydreamertoo said...

RYN: My Titanic is for the Sunday Whirl words tomorrow ;)

^.^ said...

Bless you and your fam and kids ... they are so lucky to have you as a dad, Bren ... uhm, some day I'll write a book about muy own childhoood ... not!!! Love you and wishing you well, B .... Love, cat.

Uneven Stephen said...

I love the sprinkles of characters & quotes. Something about this part:

"I am William Minahan, a doctor
I don’t make it, but got my name on the wall
what FAME! (you’d think people’d be more solemn)"

Love it. This poem makes me hanker for another vacation!

beckykilsby said...

This is such an interesting subject Brian and I love how you have framed it in a domestic experience - how real history occurs.

The Titanic fascinates - a disaster that couldn't happen re-written, re-presented in many media over many years and across continents. The human details you pick out - both in your family's visit and in the musicians' voices - make this hugely memorable.

RMP said...

maybe it helps us to remember our own mortality; a reminder that life is unknown and fleeting so we need to live every moment to the fullest.

maybe we have morbid fascination with death to compliment our love of creation; an innate interest in life and death.

or maybe as a society we have been trained to focus on disaster and push the hope and joy to page two.

who knows, why we slow down to look at the shipwreck. I'm partial to the first maybe. in response to the second quite you employed; every time I slow down to the flashing lights, I help the only way I can...I pray.

really nice piece.

John (@bookdreamer) said...

Who knows when the two towers theme part will come so you too can enjoy the rumble and the flames as you rush down the magic steps. Too soon but...

Yousei Hime said...

Loved your poem. History adds a different richness to imagery, thus the use of allusion. I'm off to read your dVerse host post. :)

Vicki Lane said...

How strange. We humans are so inexplicable.

hiroshimem.com said...

What a great frightening atmisphere you've set! A lot of beautiful expressions in there, such as "hope leaking". And the end, with the stuffed plush boats, is a good ridiculous touch to a very touching story!

flipside records said...

Very clever: "0-60 in flat seconds"

"(free fudge)" ... Oh gosh. Need some. :)

My favorite part:

"'the possibility of being able to help anyone
never occurred to me…'

exactly"

I love reading about the Titanic. Thank you for sharing this.

Archna Sharma said...

This is a wonderful piece, Brian, it left me breathless. It is very morbid, our fascination and the money that is made from it. In some way, I think that disaster is a tool for discovery, though. I love your image of "hope leaking". I'm glad that there were photographs to recover.

Thank you for this prompt.

marousia said...

Frightening sober poem - you really nailed the compulsion to imagine... the image of the musicians is so damned poignant...

Serena said...

Wow... you took my breath away. The first stanza really gave me something to think about. Maybe it has something to do with our need for survival, so we study tragedy as a means of avoiding it? I know someone who nothing seems to light her face as much as reporting some sort of bad news... Loved your poem. You are very talented.

adan said...

there's so many levels of irony going on here -

a death ship disaster fun ride! wow

i won't even say what comes to mind might be next...

but having raised kids and took them to sorta-things-like-that, what they'll remember won't be the same things at all -

just as well - "We choose touring the Titanic, already knowing our fate" don't cut it with kids scratching the clay to make their own fates,

and that's just as well, as well ;-)

you & your lady are there to see they don't go down with the same old ship, they'll choose how they'll float, as ya'll get them where they can make those decisions -

and that's big, and from the sound of it, ya'll are doing it great man, yeah, really ;-)

sorry this is so wordy, but there were so many layers of irony....

lucychili said...

all of us play for a moment
no one immortal
but it is a kick in the guts
imagining him speak
i didn't make it

Bodhirose said...

Love how your observations come from those who have passed on...your kid's perspective and your own. The only merciful thing about that disaster was that you went fast in that frigid water. Always enjoy your writing, Brian.

sharonlee said...

Hello Brian... that attraction of attractions... fascinating really.

I thought you may enjoy my new blog

a day by day travel journal of my recent road trip, I'm up to Part 6 Day 7 adding one day of my trip every day

http://sharonlee-farnorthadventure.blogspot.com.au/

pandamoniumcat said...

Imagine holding your breath to the last possible moment... that really hit me. Being in that position of helplessness. It sums up life and that will to survive despite the odds. I think the fascination is the need as you say to understand something that can never be understood. Great poem that weaves the then and now brilliantly.

Eva Gallant said...

Maybe the fascination is with the realization that but for some unforseen circumstance, it could have been us.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

The Titanic was an excellent choice, Brian (thx for hosting, too). There is such mythology surrounding it - all those circumstances, just the right egos wanting to go full steam ahead; just the right placement of that berg; and most saddening, the fate of the Steerage passengers. They would have been my people... I would like to see the museum, didn't know about it. Many thanks, my friend. Peace, Amy
PS the "prop-ellor" was great!

sheila said...

never been to that museum but have driven past it. how was the idol show? Your insights brought the Titanic alive for me. I was fascinated when watching the last few documentaries on it as well.

Linda Kruschke said...

Very nice. Have never toured the Titanic Museum, but did go to Pearl Harbor when in Hawaii and have been up to Mt. St. Helens in Washington. It is odd how we make disasters into tourist attractions. Hmmmmmm. Peace, Linda

Anonymous said...

You picked one of the most tragic, if not the most tragic... bittersweet. Can you imagine on board and sinking, the music must have been tragic in itself, the feeling. Thanks Brian, good going. Mine is too simple, summer has taken my mind. :)gardenlilie

rallentanda said...

The herd's fascination with horror is almost always morbid rather than empathetic.Long live recluses in caves:)

Madeleine Begun Kane said...

Vividly amazing! Stunning detail.

Fred Rutherford said...

Fantastic piece. Love how you combined your family trip to the museum, to the real life titanic, from it's relics on display, to the placards and the stories they tell to the film version as well. Great weave, seamless and deep. Thanks

Polly said...

A tribute for sure Brian ~ one never knows how things will be remembered ~ time moves on ~ nice write ~ great read

Jenny Woolf said...

I always feel a bit uncomfortable with disaster tourism or atrocity tourism. I also can't really detach myself from the feeling that there were real people involved, and how horrible is that?

SueAnn Lommler said...

Wow! What a journey you have taken me on today! Icebergs, freezing water...shallow breath...last moments.
I definitely felt the anxiety with this one.
Hugs
SueAnn

Friko said...

I am one of the (few?) people to whom disaster is a definite turn-off. I couldn't even watch the Titanic movie.

As always, you have caught the exact note, perhaps better than the museum itself.

Marbles in My Pocket said...

Excellent write on one of the most dreadful nights in history. So many stories on that ship.

Sandi McBride said...

Hi Brian...since I'm allowed up for more than 15 minutes at a time, am doing Blog catch up and so glad I dropped in to see you...I love Branson, it's been to long since we went...it's really getting to be a multi tasking trip, isn't it? Okay, off to say hello to more of my friends...have a grand Sunday!
Sandi

CiCi said...

Interesting to see things through your boys' eyes and the fun they were having while you were experiencing different emotions. When you go on vacation, you do so much. My vacations with my kids was mostly camping and hiking and swimming.

kez said...

I think I kinda of got a chunk of American culture here ! thanks for sharing and hosting x x

jane hewey said...

"touch the iceberg and feel your fingers burn by the end" i have always enjoyed this sense-dichotomy. many of us are fascinated by our own mortality. great poem, Brian.

JANU said...

Now the kids have grown up, the visit to amusement park have lessened. We did not have any amusement parks in India when we were young. We had many parks....love to bring out the kid in me though.
Wonderful write.

dsnake1 said...

great poem! it was as if i was there when the great ship sank.

Anders Woje Ellingsen said...

I believe there were spectators to the show when Christ were crucified also. But I believe the motivation to be there was different from beings to beings.

Sue said...

I've always been fascinated by the Titanic for some reason. Of course, I know I am anything but alone in this.

Courage and cowardice make interesting bedfellows, and I suspect there was much of both that night.

"/

Roy Schulze said...

I don't know if you intended this, Brian, but your story made me think of a Science Fiction future where we may be able to actually experience these historical disasters through the eyes of the victims. And thank you for visiting my entry this week: A Plot Both Great and Grand.

zongrik said...

did u know there's a whole sub-culture of dark tourism? it's even on wikipedia


events cocatenated

ds said...

Oh, that ship. The image of the musicians refusing to board lifeboats haunts, always. And Branson makes me think of music, had no idea of its scope.

For true solemnity, I recommend the Vietnam Memorial and someday (though much much harder to get to) the USS Arizona. I can still picture the bubbles rising to the surface...(should've written about that. oh well.)
Thank you.

lifeisaroadtrip said...

Wow, that was a really cool perspective, Brian. Perhaps you are a reincarnated Titanic passenger!

Victoria said...

So good, Brian. And it's so true--our fascination with tragedy. I remember bing just a week or two post-op from my transplant when 9-11 happened and just stayed there, glued to the screen all day. I liked how you contrasted the impact of the visit on your kids with your own.

vivinfrance said...

The poem was almost too vivid, and certainly aroused uncomfortable thoughts; so skilfully written. I imagine that was your intention,to give us a jolt.

Tara Miller said...

I agree with Claudia about are fascination of disaster being linked to our own fears. As we were touring the Titanic museum I found myself trying to view things through the passengers eyes and what they might have felt. It was very interesting all we learned by visiting.

Very good write, love.

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

"Our fascination with disaster as an attraction
is somewhat disturbing--- flocking to it,
perhaps attempting to understand
what no one can...


Hi! Brian...
What a very descriptive poem in which you described perfectly, the-movement,an[d]emotion that you and your family experienced while exploring the Titanic.
Great write and Tks, for sharing the pix Of the Dam, Branson
deedee :)

daydreamerdreams said...

Your tale had me hanging on for every second! Love the messages here. I'll remember this for years, especially when on the highway, when there's a crash, and traffic is stopped-- not because of anything in the way, but because someone stopped driving to see what was going on! Great write!

poeticlicensee said...

Too many voyagers & too few life boats, Titanic disaster begs the question, 'Why?'

Syd said...

The Titantic is one of those horrific occurrences that bothers me, mostly because of the arrogance of some who caused the death of many.

Margaret said...

Just loved this poem, Brian. I have seen the stage musical twice (amazing) and the movie with Leonardo DeCaprio again just recently (and liked it even better NOW... perhaps because I'm older?). I would probably have enjoyed this museum... then I would have wanted to head for the mountains!