RALPH

When gas freeing cargo tanks
Gas
Specifically jet fuel gas
Comes out of the ullage vents

At high pressure
Ralph
Chief Mate Ralph
Would stand bent over

His face in the stream of gas
About six-inches from the vent 
For hours on end
His face

With eyes closed
Held a peaceful
Far away 
Expression

The thing about merchant ships
Is nobody gives a fuck what you do
Everybody ignored Ralph
Except me

“What the fuck is with that?”
I asked the other Mate 
Consistent with my life-long habit
Of speaking when I shouldn’t 

And not speaking
When I should
He looked at me for a moment
“Ralph is fucking nuts”

There is an empty lesson here
Without judgement
Empowered individuals
Do as they wish

In a vacuum 
Zen like acknowledgement and non-action
From the world at large
Guessing

Ralph died of cancer