Now I am thankful this unbroken flesh
Has known hard rowing, and the trenchant bite
Of cold salt water, as reluctant mesh
Came up at sunrise from the tidal night.
Wisdom was in the brief recurrent shock
Of bodies braced against a plunging line;
Familiar meaning in the liquid knock
Of building swell concerned with buoyant pine.

Only in some black biting hour we learn
How strength and wit lie dreaming in the brain…
Now at its need the wakened mind shall turn
An oilskin to the dictatorial rain:
What shall a little wind or words avail
Against a heart close-hauled, with shortened sail?


This ghost is much embarrassed that his son,
Learned in a gentler way of thought and speech,
Should still consider where the mackeral run
And three grey huts on a windy beach.
Embarrassed but unsurprised. His heart has known
That kinship tempered in an offshore blow,
More eloquent than blood to mark its own,
Pulsed always in us. And he knows I know.

Lord, I address myself to you: be kind;
Mindful of how the cosmic current sets.
Though immortality be a state of mind,
Let there be a clean firm bottom for the nets.
When it is time for this quick flesh to die
Let herring school through heaven’s hot July.

© Harry Bruce, All Rights Reserved