Flags for David Judah: The International Code

In flag-hoist, in international code,
they have pennants for each single letter:
stripes, fields, squares of red, blue, yellow, and white
to cut through mist and distance between ships.

The code has pennants for numbers and signs;
and a syntax to string flags, letter for
word, so in peril, one might say, “My ship
is on fire, can you take my men on board?”

But there is no vocabulary, no
sequence of symbol or colour, to say,
“When you passed, you left a space in this world,
as wide and deep as the Labrador Sea.”

Practiced mariners can describe the state
of the ocean in three flags, ten degrees
of roughness, depicting waves of up to
forty-five feet; and they can speak about

VHF radiotelephony, and
foam fire extinguishers, and nuclear
incidents. But for your memory there is
no ensign, no pennant, no semaphore.

And so we raise this flag for you, voyager,
selector, siromani, ‘need for ship’,
in a rearranged alphabet, spanning
Y and Z, ‘the wind’, ‘to communicate’:

Hoisted full-mast in its constellation
of flags, against the billowing sails, as
your spirit rounds the horn of Africa
at the helm of the Flora S. Nickerson.


  1. Short link - http://bit.ly/s4djudah

  2. "When you passed you left a space in this world" lovely- have been thinking and writing about spaces - how my spaces fill yours ~ how my nothingness can be voluminous enough to fill another :-)


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