by Derek Mahon

copyright © Derek Mahon 2008

Scratch of a match
fierce in the dark. The alarm clock,
night-vigilant, reads twenty minutes to four;
wide awake, as so often at this dead hour,
I gaze down at the lighted dock,
trawler and crated catch,
as if on watch.

The bright insects
of helicopters drop to the decks
of gas rigs ten miles out in the heavy waves,
their roaring rotors far from our quiet leaves,
before midnight, and the ship that shone
at dusk on the horizon
has long since gone.

Nothing stirs
in garden or silent house,
no night owl flies or none that we can hear;
not evening the mild, traditional field-mouse
runs nibbling, as you’d expect, under the stairs.
Boats knock and click at the pier,
shrimps worship the stars.

The whole coast
is soporific as if lost
to echoes of a distant past –
the empty beach house with no obvious owner,
the old hotel liked a wrecked ocean liner
washed up one stormy night
and left to rot.

That woman from
the Seaview, a ‘blow-in’
of some kind from a foreign shore,
seems out of her element and far from home,
the once perhaps humorous eyes grown vague out here.
What is she? A Lithuanian, or a Finn?
We’ve met before

beside some flat
road bridge and bleak strand road,
two men in black at the corner staring hard,
far off in the stricken distance perhaps a shipyard,
chimneys, power plants, gasometers,
oil refineries, Gothic spires
and things like that –

where a cloud climbs
and swirls, yellow and red
streaking the estuary, and a soul screams
for sunken origins, for the obscure sea bed
and glowing depths, the alternative mud haven
we left behind. Once more we live in
interesting times.