Curved over islands, the world
dragged me south in a talkative year
as the band played a distant farewell.
It was better than steerage,
that assisted passage: ten pound Poms
at sixpence the dozen, promenading
in sun frocks, gathering for quoits,
angling, in an understated way,
for a seat at the Captain’s table —
while I, a child, roamed decks, became
impertinent to sailors.
And the heat! My dear, there never were
such days — rum, romance,
the rudiments of ska. Panama beckoned,
locks pulsing like the birth canal.
We passed through, to be rocked
on the swells of the quiet ocean,
its long unshaded days
of trade winds, doldrums, Equator —
then a cold shore,
a bureaucratic harbour,
and the half of a world
it would take to say goodbye.
“Impertinent To Sailors” was published in JAAM 27 (2009), edited by Ingrid Horrocks, under the title “Over Islands”. I plan to include it in my forthcoming collection “Men Briefly Explained”.
Check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog – including the poem by Kerry Popplewell I’ve selected as this week’s “hub” Tuesday Poem.