COMING INTO HARBOUR - poem by Hugh Cook - a meditation on the death of the writer's maternal grandfather




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Coming Into Harbour

(a meditation on my maternal grandfather's death)

It has been days now,
With strangers in the house,
Their shadows
Changing on the walls,
The future fading, and the past
Seeking its conclusion.
He makes a joke, or questions
The progress of the world.
His frame is lighter now,
His girth diminished, his spine
Shortened by his age;
His voice is worn,
And words beyond speech
Trouble in his mind.
The shadows darken,
And his hands
Are quietened by fatigue.
He may recall
A trip to China,
A journey down to Spain,
Tramp ships awash with water,
Bread and beer,
And the wind,
Snatching at words,
Thickening his voice to thunder.
He may remember
A landscape twice a generation old,
Recall the old canals, the locks and barges,
Before the changes and the wars.
The sea sings in his skull.
Words baffle his ears.
The light is dull.
Coming into harbour,
With darkness within his eyes,
He holds her hand -
Loathe to leave her.
Contours form in the night,
And he imagines
Lights and voices distant on the sand,
And, curious,
He dreams of the rivermouth,
Sweet water and the shore,
And in the morning, the hills,
Bright in the marble sunlight.

Author's note: this poem was first published when it was uploaded to my Internet site on Friday 2003 July 18. However, it was actually written more than twenty years previously, back in the Twentieth Century.

Of all the poems I have written, this is one of my favorites, but I don't think I ever showed it to anyone. A lot of the word machines that I have created are totally impersonal self-sustaining gadgets, and some of them I don't now even remember having written. But this one is rather different, a part of my living self.

At some time in the future, I think I might like to add a few words about my grandfather, but I don't want to do that now. If I did write something, I wouldn't want it to be written out of the hastiness of my present rushed existence.

Publication details: "Coming Into Harbour" was written back in the Twentieth Century but was first published when posted on the Internet on 2003 July 18. Copyright © 2003 Hugh Cook. All rights reserved.

COMING INTO HARBOUR - poem by Hugh Cook - a meditation on the death of the writer's maternal grandfather

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