Rosslare Ferry

It was as far from

Sybil Fawlty as you could get:

I know, I know,

Oh, I know, said the voice over and over.

He didn’t of course, not exactly,

difference making distance, distance staking difference.

From my distance though, just a few breaths away,

so close I could see the pores on the back of his neck,

I felt the visceral truth of his avowal

and the undertow of close-kept sorrow

as he held his failed, fretful child

whose chin rested on his shoulder,

her face face to face with mine.

She ageless, frailly tumescent,

a macrocephalic rag doll lolling into his wholeness.

Her dark curls lustrously were her only winning way.

She would not make him a grandfather.

We were stalled in the stairwell

of the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry,

summoned en masse to return to our vehicles,

but somehow out of sync,

with the doors to the hold still locked.

So jammed, our world reduced

to an unsought sweaty intimacy.

My sea view of Tuskar Rock

and the broad sweep of the old familial houses

as we approached the harbour

shrank to this

out of sync child, her father and mother- strangers-

before the doors released us and the vehicles dispersed us.

Did he and his wife think their life would become this?

Days of grit and slobber

grudging a truncated future?

One foot after another,

one fitful rest after the exacting exhaustions of one day’s care

and on and on and on to the vanishing point

of relieved, grieved and rightful loss.

I know, I know, he murmured,

and it was about as close as you could get to

the honour accorded to kinship

and the sway of adamantine tenderness.

The integral heft of his words knew

that from the grist of care would accrue

the silky pure flour of love,

sufficient to see them through

and nourish.

And endure. Beyond the care.

The child’s eyes- blue profundities- met mine,

and I reached out to touch her unthriving hand.



*This poem was shortlisted for the Australian Catholic University Poetry Prize 2018.