My father worked on ships.
They spelked his hands,
dusted his eyes, his face, his lungs.
Those eyes that watered by the Tyne
stared out to sea
to see the world
in a tear of water, at the drop
of an old cloth cap.
For thirty weary winters
through the snow and the wild winds
of loose change.
He was proud of those ships he built,
he was proud of the men he built with,
his dreams sailed with them:
the hull was his skull,
the cargo his brains.
His hopes rose and sunk
in the shipwrecked streets
and I look at him now
this father of mine who worked on ships
and I feel proud
of his skeletal frame, this coastline
that moulded me
and my own sweet dreams.
He sits in his retiring chair,
dozing into the night.
There are storms in his head
and I wish him more love yet.
Sail with me,
breathe in me,
breathe that rough sea air old man,
and cough it up.
against the dying
of this broken-backed town,
of its broken-backed
Mo Shevis: Read your 'My father worked on ships' as one of my choices at our poetry reading group last week, it went down very well!!
Bought 'Imagined Corners' recently and was pleased to see this poem there, having read it previously online. When I read it last week at my poetry reading group it was very well received.! It is a powerful piece Keith. We are all of an age to remember the old industries, proud of our heritage and those who worked in them. Thankfully we have people like you to record such images and memories for posterity.
Derek Young: What a poem. So evocative of those days. I worked at Parsons Marine Turbine Company as an apprentice marine engineer. My girl friend was a trainee tracer at Swan Hunters.
Michael McNally: Hi Keith,Thank you for sending this wonderful piece of work in my direction.
Joan Edler: Hello! came across your website and really enjoyed above poem. I am now living in the United States having been transplanted from Wallsend, that would be in 1949. I have wonderful memories of my childhood in Wallsend and also High Farm and your poem really piqued my interest...my dear Dad worked for Swan Hunter for many years, he was a shipwright and I remember, with great thrill and anticipation, seeing the ships that he helped build being launched. Thanks for the memories! Hawa the lads!
Allan Dennis Brockbank: I always did like your poetry, how you doing?
Posted by keith armstrong at 4:23 pm