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Poems from Jock MacKenzie
The Royal Oak


Eight hundred men lie below
in the oily water of Scapa Flow
long have they shed their coats of flesh
only the bones look white and fresh.
Down at their stations the frameworks lie
where fate and the Hun decreed they die.
Alone they are the skeleton folk
who lie forever on the Royal Oak.
Let them lie, let them lie without curious glance
it could be you but for wandering chance,
who ended all in fire and smoke
and drowned to death on the Royal Oak,
who shed their flesh and passed no seed
who lie in the depths where fishes feed.
Up here men laugh and women joke,
there’s never a smile on the royal Oak.
At Scapa Flow where the waters boil
there’s nothing left but a slick of oil.
Cut off lives where white bones soak
eight hundred men on the Royal oak.

(From ‘Seal Woman’ Jock MacKenzie, pub 2001)


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