Down in the shipyard, day and night,
The Galahads of the dock,
Hard as the sinews of basin rock,
Build an ocean cosmopolite.
The rivets stab and the hammers bite
Into the beams and plates of steel
Of the Diesel heart and the belly keel.
The workers of the world strike catholic notes
On woods and irons, wring from brassy throats
Epics of industry.
Day and night
The diapason puts
The bent-winged gulls to flight
And shakes the harbor and quakes the ground
And leaps at the suns like Prometheus bound.
Our matrix shapes our citizen of the world
To cross the churning mountains of the sea,
Nor fashions a canoe to sail a lake
In cool felicity.
Melvin Tolson, “The Shipwright” from Harlem Gallery and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1999)
Source: “Harlem Gallery” and other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson (University Press of Virginia, 1999)