In Distress

by David Wagoner

In 1926, David Wagoner was born in Massillon, Ohio. He is the author of numerous poetry collections, including Good Morning and Good Night (University of Illinois Press, 2005); The House of Song (2002); Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems (1999); Walt Whitman Bathing (1996); Through the Forest: New and Selected Poems (1987); First Light (1983); Landfall (1981); and In Broken Country (1979).

His Collected Poems, 1956-1976 was nominated for the National Book Award in 1977. His collection Who Shall Be the Sun? (1978) is a collection of poems based on the folklore, legends, and myths of indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast and Plateau regions. Other collections of poetry include Sleeping in the Woods (1974); Riverbed (1972); New and Selected Poems (1969); Staying Alive (1966); The Nesting Ground (1963); A Place to Stand (1958); and Dry Sun, Dry Wind (1953).

Wagoner is also the author of ten novels, including The Escape Artist (1965), which was adapted into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola. He is also the editor of Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-63 (1972).

Selected entirely from the International
Code of Signals, U.S. edition, published
by the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office.
   I am abandoning my vessel
   Which has suffered a nuclear accident
   And is a possible source of radiation danger.

                             You should abandon your vessel as quicly as possible.
                             Your vessel will have to be abandoned
     
   I shall abandon my vessel
   Unless you remain beside me,
   Ready to assist.
   I have had a serious nuclear accident
   And you should approach with caution.
   The position of the accident is marked by flame.
   The position of the accident is marked by wreckage.
   I need a doctor. I have severe burns.
   I need a doctor. I have radiation casualties.
   I require a helicopter urgently, with a doctor.
   The number of injured or dead is not yet known.
   Your aircraft should endeavor to alight
   Where a flag is waved or a light is shown.
   Shall I train my searchlight nearly vertical
   On a cloud intermittently and, if I see your aircraft,
   Deflect the beam upwind and on the water
   To facilitate your landing?

                             I do not see any light.

   You may alight on my deck; I am ready to receive you foreward.
   You may alight on my deck; I am ready to receive you amidship.
   You may alight on my deck; I am ready to receive you aft.

                             I am entering a zone of reduced visibility.
                             Visibility is decreasing.
                             You should come within visual signal distance.

   I require immediate assistance; I have a dangerous list.
   I require immediate assistance; I have damaged steering gear.
   I require immediate assistance; I have a serious disturbance on board.
   I require immediate assistance; I am on fire.

                              What assistance do you require?
                              Can you proceed without assistance?
                              Boats cannot be used because of weather conditions.
                              Boats cannot be used on the starboard side because of list.
                              Boats cannot be used on the port side because of list.
                              Boats cannot be used to disembark people.
                              Boats cannot be used to get alongside.
                              Boats cannot be used to reach you.
                              I cannot send a boat.

   I require immediate assistance; I am drifting.
   I am breaking adrift. I have broken adrift.
   I am sinking.

                              Did you see the vessel sink?
                              Is it confirmed that the vessel has sunk?
                              What is the depth of water where the vessel sank?
                              Where did the vessel sink?
                              I have lost sight of you.

   My position is marked by flame.
   My position is marked by wreckage.
   Are you in the search area?

                              I am in the search area.

   Are you continuing to search?

                              Do you want me to continue to search?
                              I cannot continue to search.

   I cannot save my vessel.
   Keep as close as possible.
   I wish some persons taken off.
   A skeleton crew will remain on board.
   You should give immediate assistance to pick up survivors.
   You should try to obtain from survivors all possible information.

                              I cannot take off persons.
                              There are indications of an intense depression forming.
                              The wind is expected to veer.
                              You should take appropriate precautions.
                              A phenomenal wave is expected.
                              I cannot proceed to the rescue.
                              I will keep close to you during the night.
                              Nothing can be done until daylight.

   From Landfall: Poems, David Wagoner.  Copyright © 1980, 1981 David Wagoner.
   



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