No sign of anyone who might know

enough about this boat to take full control,

to comfort many a mere passive mariner

when the sounds of the sea batter salted steel –

like the boom just now as an ocean’s drop

slapped the keel to resonate in emulation of

a thousand lusty thunderclaps –

such din might cause this sailor (an atheist too)

to pray to gods that might exist to apply their powers

to stop this hell on earth, these devil screams

and return him whole to land-side dreams.


I muse over the bold bright naming of this vessel,

MS Kong Harald (out of Norway), as if the sea were

concerned with our (or any) notion of royalty;

Harald has no sway over the weather or

the elements or artisans that have conspired to

baffle clumsy Earth and each of its denizens

who had hoped to master the art of prediction

of what will and won’t confront the wary traveller

for the entirety of his journey. They offer no such

cyclical reliability– if indeed any cycle at all.


And I permit myself an arrogation

in the form of a cheap wry smile at my peers –

that is, implicitly but deliberately excluding myself.

But to what end? In truth, I stagger about

just as much as any of them, unseeing, proactive as

blancmange, reactive as jelly. From time to time,

one of our kind will creep from its cave, on its belly,

thinking it has come up with an idea as how to either

improve mankind’s lot or dupe a simple majority into

believing that it has. Oh, the woeful playing out of

each such arch-conceit, the crafty weaving of

the web in consolidation of such low deceit.

Ye politicians, watch the tide wash past your feet!


Such is but one fable of man and water;

the latter always wins in any allegory, parable

or playtime story. So I turn my mind to ways in which

water flows benign, might help our blighted species.

I lightly kneed the dough on this and thoughts move

to bread and baking: the idea of quietly watching

the wake we make flows off the pen and onto paper;

the idea that every act has an immediate impact;

the notion that we test its validity and adequacy

by reference to the water in which it was performed.

We leave a wake a thousand times a day, each to

plait, bind and intertwine to make just one in preparation

for the last, slow motion journey with the ferryman.


And the ferryman already knows about

the wake thus created, at once a staff, a story,

a calibration. He grasps the wake and takes

the hand of the traveller, stepping from the shore

into his tiny, briny coracle. He tows the wake behind,

knowing that the strokes he employs are there,

in the wake, so he can use no others.

He rows silently, steadily and, though mute, he

answers the questions the traveller has as to

why, how and how long; and the traveller

stops and recalls the wave that hit the Kong Harald

and recognises the message in the thunderclaps.

The ferryman ships oars, pulls the boat ashore

and, pointing landward, says all this is forever yours.




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Martin Elder

Sun 7th Oct 2018 23:09

You weren't travelling on Viking sea cruises were you Peter. I hear that they can be a bit harsh on passengers making them take to the oars. Sorry about that Flipincy
I will get my coat

Nice poem

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Hazel ettridge

Sun 7th Oct 2018 11:08

This brought me great joy. Like eating at a michelin starred restaurant- coming across new flavours and combinations that all come together in the end.

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Sat 6th Oct 2018 17:41

Much respect Peter for this epic journey from fact to fantasy if I may say that. There is a thread albeit a circuitous one and we do well to hold the handrail for the ride. As always, your mind unrolls like a pageant, with a definite flare for examination of themes.

A pleasant change from some of the more direct work we see. I enjoyed your poem at Waterstones the other night. Congratulations.


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