Brother of the ‘Phin

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Brother of the ‘Phin

Larry Dunn

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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.”

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