"Coffee, lass, strong and black,
These old bones are chilled clear through."
A big-knuckled hand reached out,
For the mug of steaming brew.

He held the mug with both his hands,
To warm them from the cold,
He studied the rich, dark liquid,
With unseeing eyes ... and old.

The wind outside shrieked fiercely,
The old tavern moaned and groaned,
Just a few men there that night,
Mostly sailors away from home.

Conversations low and mumbled,
Some men quiet - staring into space,
Two men standing, drinking ale,
Backs warming at the fireplace.

The crackling fire barely heard,
Its sound drowned out by pounding rain,
Thunder booming, lightening crashing,
White steamy frames on window panes.

Unprotected from the elements,
On a bluff, high over the sea,
The old tavern caught the full brunt,
Of the storm's intensity.

The building shook; a window broke,
A barmaid screamed in fright,
The room plunged into darkness,
Lit just by fire light.

The men put down their steins and mugs,
Looked wide-eyed at one another,
One crossed himself, as he cried out,
"Protect us, Holy Mother!"

The minutes seemed like hours,
While the terrible storm blew through,
The men sat frozen at their tables,
Not a thing a one could do.

Some heads were bowed, perhaps in prayer,
But not a single voice heard,
'Twould almost be a sacrilege,
For the howling winds to be disturbed.

Shortly the wind stopped screaming,
The rain slowed to a gentle beat,
A deadly silence in the place,
The only sound - heartbeats.

Then self-conscious, sheepish laughter
Was heard throughout the room,
Final rounds of drinks were ordered,
And conversations were resumed.

Soon the men said good night and left,
Except for only two,
The big-knuckled man then raised his mug,
" Aye, lass, any more hot brew?"

"I'll have some, too," said the second voice,
A young man standing at the side,
"Mind if I join you, sir?"
"Help yourself," the old man replied.

At first, the two drank quietly,
Then the young man ventured, "Quite a blow."
"Yep," the old man remarked,
"I've ridden out worse ones, though."

"When the winds rose to their peak
I noticed, sir, you didn't flinch,,
And when the glass broke in the window,
You didn't jump or budge an inch."

"Well," the old man smiled,
"I was startled, but not scared,
I got built-in protection,
Jesus Christ is right in there."

He patted his chest, over his heart,
And gave the young man a grin,
"Sailor, I learned this the hard way,
From another storm I was in."

"A vicious blow, off the nor'east coast,
It struck us in the night,
We'd had a good trip; we were going home,
We were searching for the lighthouse light."

"Then suddenly without warning,
The wind began to rise,
The moon vanished from our view,
And the stars disappeared from the sky."

"I'll not forget the sound of that wind,
Like demons from Hell - all around,
The men tried to lower the sails,
Before they were ripped and came down."

"Our ship tossed about like flotsam,
The waves, batting us to and fro,
Laughing, as if they enjoyed the game,
Of terrifying every man's soul."

"Pitch black, lad, we couldn't see."
The old man raised his hand to his eye,
"I sensed we were heading out to sea,
If so, for sure, we would die."

"I ordered the men to lash themselves
To whatever seemed stable on deck,
We lost a few, swept over the rail,
All of them, I couldn't protect."

"I tried to hold on to the wheel and steer,
Though I had no true sense of direction,
Then it spun away from my feeble grasp,
And I fell to my knees in abjection."

"I'd given up; it was just too much,
I cried out, 'Dear God, save the men!
Do what You will with me,
But, please let them get home again!'"

"I felt a hand beneath my arm,
Lifting me to my feet,
Another hand turned the wheel for me,
And the ship turned away from the sea."

"Through a break in the clouds, I thought I saw,
A tiny glow off in the distance,
The light atop the lighthouse tower,
A sight lasting only an instant."

"But that was long enough to give me hope,
To let me think we'd make it in,
I felt His hand upon my shoulder,
He smiled at me! It was Him!"

"I've never forgotten that storm,
Nor will I ever forget that ride,
And I'll never be frightened again,
With God's Spirit now dwelling inside."

With that, the old man finished his coffee,
And got up to leave the place,
He added, " Men don't belong on the sea,
Until they've met up with God's grace."

Virginia (Ginny) Ellis
Copyright 2000 ~ Revised September 2008.

Music: Our God Reigns

Background ~ Courtesy of Jean Farrow