Sorry I Haven't Been Listening

Brian Farrington

Sorry, I haven't been listening, I've been reminded
of the ten-year old child I can just remember being,
that stood by the port-hole of a white second-class cabin
in the Liverpool to Dublin boat, looking out at the sea.

Behind was my first visit to that cockayne country, England,
where aunts lived upon cake and had dinner twice a day,
and there were trains and people sat up having lunch in them,
and an uncle took me into a stand-up lavatory full of men.

I gazed through the porthole out at the carpet of foam,
the wheeling acres of sea that were rushing me back,
away from the English accents, the half-crowns, a fortnight of treats,
back to Ireland, ordinariness and school.

And fixed in my mind from the swift mosaic of bubbles
a shape I can still remember, a bit like a skate's egg,
like a vest hung out on a line, like a map of France;
it changed as I watched and changes as I remember it.

Now, when I think, I see the humped water,
the immense revolving sea as it swilled past,
and the black wall of ship with a small round porthole in it,
and my eyes making fast that shape in the salt suds.

That shape, fixed from the changing,
the changing, unchanging sea.