At Oban

Like the small wavelets in Oban Bay
are the days after we met, of light and dark,
a deep-bobbing surface of tones. Beyond us they stay,
whatever they were, apart, a chance remark
of history. But the depths, the sun’s spark
never quite go, of the days after we met;
nor all the small times of fortune that we forget.

Two light craft on the tide were in our keeping.
For twenty years our daily and nightly concern
were these; and all our waking, and all our sleeping,
they commandeered. And I resolved to turn
away, when they should be away; to learn
of other seas: but what direction taking,
I did not know; nor what I was forsaking.

Out I sailed. It was no pleasure trip
to “see the sights”. I went out of my way.
For many a year an Odyssean ship
fought with the winds, the rocks, the blinding spray;
or next to Circe under a strange moon lay.
An Ithacan ending though was not to be,
Odysseus and his Penelope.

No: I am back and each of us is single;
but she is no more mine nor am I hers.
I look out at the bay across the shingle
to where the beauty of the water stirs,
and cast my mind back to two characters
in love. No: close friends now, they stay apart;
and each observes a privacy of the heart.

Close and apart: a lesson of love’s steering,
so hard to learn. Merely with that in hand
I come to you, and ask another hearing,
a truer sailing time. To understand
the difference between water and dry land
has taken an age. Ah, may the deep bay yet
shine with the spark of the days after we met?

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