On a wet night, laden with books for luggage,
And stumbling under the burden of himself,
He reached the pier, looking for a refuge.
Darkly he crossed to the island six miles off:
The engine pulsed, the sails invented rhythm,
While the sea expanded and the rain drummed softly.
Safety on water, he rocked with a new theme:
And in the warmth of his mind’s greenhouse bloomed
A poem as graceful as a chrysanthemum.
His forehead, a Prussian helmet, moody, domed,
Relaxed in the sun: a lyric was his lance.
To be loved by the people, he, a stranger, hummed
In the herring-store on Sunday crammed with drunks
Ballads of bawdry with a speakeasy stress.
Yet lonely they left him, “one of the Yanks.”
The children understood. This was not madness.
How many orphans had he fathered in words
Robust and cunning, but never heartless.
He watched the harbour scouted by sea-birds:
His fate was like fish under poetry’s beaks:
Words began weirdly to take off inwards.
Time that they calendar in seasons not in clocks,
In gardens dug over and houses roofed,
Was to him a see-saw of joys and shocks,
Where his body withered but his style improved.
A storm shot up, his glass cracked in a gale:
An abstract thunder of darkness deafened
The listeners he’d once given roses, now hail.
He’d burst the lyric barrier: logic ended.
Doctors were called, and he agreed to sail.
door Richard Murphy