At Harbour

St. Colman’s Church, Cosham, Jan. 6th 2018

It has been a desperate voyage. Only now
as I put in to harbour, can I admit
the full force of the storm, surreal, immense,
the slapdash horror of the elements,
the meaningless lunge onward. Stern to prow
a frame has shuddered . . . and got on with it.

With what? Inwith the dark and flickering lights,
the unimaginable travelling sound
of last week’s universe, inwith the word
of every living breath – whatever’s heard,
seen, sensed – is gone, forgotten. Our delights
are laughable. A gasp-to-be is drowned.

Still a ship sails. To philosophise where
is almost trivial. As I put in
to harbour – from which, fresh and free from taint,
I set out with the blessing of a saint,
the flick of a half-century back – a prayer
springs up, as if I might again begin.
Father Troy
whose patient voice said each word of the service
that made as one and gave to their new home
a 24-year-old girl and boy
the residence of either with the other
each word, each syllable simply said and meant
your voice has stayed with me these fifty years

now in a space of great beauty
a song of shades, a wakeful wide-winged room
a roving-rich array, a tall-arched trim
a rough and steady freehold of the soul
a palace of the delicate austere
this concert-hall of quiet
this music of the stars, this ship at rest

Father Troy, at fifty years
to the day in the church of St. Colman
may that same voice be with me at this moment
that I renew a vow –
not to be one with her, for that is over –
but yet to be received with all my heart
into a flame, a passionate breadth of being

as I pass on
If battling to destruction, yet there has been
a breath of beauty somewhere on the tide.
A struggling ship – utterly large or small –
is hounded into nothing. Still not all
is reckoned up by that, if it has seen
a touch of care that would not be denied.

I leave to still skies. In a week or two
the map will alter. Still a memory stays,
the flicker of a haven, as the thunder
devils the ocean, and the deck dies under.
Still on: and ever piercing through and through,
the tremor of a sweetness to my days.

I thank my bride. A generational span
upon the world’s way, that I spent with her,
yields new worlds yet, at which the heart rejoices.
And now my head is tumbling with two voices:
the lost and present words of a good man,
and the consent of my co-voyager.

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