Morning Star

Only the half-asleep trucks
under sodium-lights in the dockyard
see the MV Matutina
arrive under mercury floods;
the ramp hits the deck and they march,
this cohort of merchant marine,
verdigris buttons and flashes
of this or that long-defunct line,
those with no more than a brown-
paper-parcel, some with kitbags
of laundry and presents and mounted
chronometers given in token
of unfinished decades of service
and each takes his taxi — a Humber,
or Wolseley, Granada or Zephyr
according to when each one last
saw shore-leave, for nothing must seem
out-of-place on this homecoming dawn.

But as they take separate journeys
to sundry hill-farms in the glens
or one or another gaunt sandstone-
faced bay-window house by the shore
with its plaque in Fijian or Gaelic
no curtains are moved to watch out for
the taxi-lights rounding the point.

The lounge-bars and chapels are dark
where they then were infrequent and ill-
at-ease guests, in silence the yards
where collies would once have held-forth
bringing half-awake households to doors
but the front-parlours still have kept faith
with their oak and mahogany sideboards
and paper-knives brought from Archangel,
Caracas, Vancouver, and they take
from the dresser the marquetry frame
with flesh-tints and watered-green-eyes
and they fumble for pipes in a drawer
and shaving-kits gilt with initials
and settle by various windows
to gaze at the light on the Mull,
the sidereal chart and the port-beams
of trawlers that drew them away.

And inside locked gates amid cypress,
names that were added as footnotes
to family stones are effaced
and on more-than-one high leaded-light,
a lacuna in glass is embraced

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