Saturday Poem


A clear light, at all hours,
A girl at reception. And the evangelised
Stepping heavenward, up the wooden stairs,
Each with his version of Christ,

Showing the world a clean pair of heels
For Bible, drying out and three square meals –
And you, who sank your lance in Moby Dick,
Blissed-out, by the Skaggerak.

Nyhavn, Christianshavn
Mingling, splitting their cabin-lights –
Oil on water . . . Rustbuckets
In from Greenland, off the north Atlantic route,

Stinking tubs from Rekyavik, the Faroes.
Was it only yesterday
She Saved you, by a warehouse
Of flensed whales – the unadulterated joy

Of the first woman in years
On your skin, an Ishmael giving thanks
For a few words of English, the lingua franca
Of the homeless everywhere,

Knowing Bethel, ‘heavenly place’,
Brought back to yourself, in the after-trance,
By women in lights along the quays,
A laying on of hands?

by Harry Clifton
from The Winter Sleep of Captain Lemass
publisher: Bloodaxe, Newcastle, 2012