Roger Sippl

The Navy Captain’s House

The Navy Captain’s house was not burning,
but the sprinklers were firing every second on top of
this house he retired to thirty years ago
with his wife, who takes many medications now,
and his infant daughter, now a mother.

Fifty years before, cruising with supplies from Guam,
the Navy Captain heard his crew talking
about the Japanese-made torpedoes that run swift and straight
ten or twenty feet deep, anytime, piercing through the hull
and exploding mostly inside the ship
among the engines and the men.

He never thought he’d be safe at his daughter’s house,
from the thoughts of the hundreds of homes already burned,
the news stations broadcasting no foreseeable containment,
and the fact that the fire had spread fingers
across Moraga Drive, the street just houses
from the Navy Captain’s house.

Standing on the deck at night, looking over the side,
multiple straight lines glow the water to light,
tracking amidships, making him think it is over.
The Navy Captain grips the rail and bends his knees
to see the South Pacific Dolphin turn to ride the bow
of his destroyer.

He drank his bourbon, now a premature evacuee,
saying “If it goes, it goes… but Katherine will never recover from it.”
We’ll try to sleep tonight, call a neighbor in the morning,
the one with teenagers sitting on their roof watching the fire
surrounding the Navy Captain’s house.


Roger Sippl studied creative writing at UC Irvine, UC Berkeley and Stanford Continuing Studies. He is now published in 18 online and print literary journals and anthologies. While a student at Berkeley, Sippl was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and treated with 13 months of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, allowing him to live relapse-free to this day, 43 years later.

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