MY FATHER WORKED ON SHIPS
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: 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.
Thursday 26 June 2014
HAVE YOUR SAY
IT’S gratifying to see that on-line readers have taken an interest in one or two topics recently
One was that smashing poem, My Father Worked on Ships, by Keith Armstrong, in which correspondent, Geordiman, reckons he recognised himself in its depiction of an old shipyard hand.
(FOR MY FATHER)
You picked splinters
with a pin each day
from under blackened fingernails;
shreds of metal
from the shipyard grime,
minute memories of days swept by:
the dusty remnants of a life
spent in the shadow of the sea;
the tears in your shattered eyes
at the end of work.
And your hands were strong,
so sensitive and capable
of building boats
and nursing roses;
a kind and gentle man
who never hurt a soul,
the sort of quiet knackered man
who built a nation.
Dad, I watched your ashes float away
down to the ocean bed
and in each splinter
I saw your caring eyes
and gracious smile.
I think of your strong silence every day
and I am full of you,
the waves you scaled,
and all the sleeping Tyneside streets
you taught me to dance my fleeting feet along.
When I fly, you are with me.
I see your fine face
in sun-kissed clouds
and in the gold ring on my finger,
and in the heaving crowd on Saturday,
and in the lung of Grainger Market,
and in the ancient breath
of our own Newcastle.
‘This is one of the poems I'll never forget. I see the struggling of my own dad in your words.
Thanks for your fine poem.’ (Klaas Drenth)
‘Beautiful poem. Loving, moving memories. Most excellent Keith.’ (Strider Marcus Jones)
‘Love the poem Keith. That’s my dad.’ (John McMahon)
‘Beautifully visual Keith, nice to share your memories.’ x (Annie Sheridan)
‘Lovely poem, loving memories too.’ (Imelda Welsh)
‘So, so good, Keith - I'll share this, if you don't mind.’ (Kenny Jobson)
Thanks for sharing your lovely words, Keith. Very poignant as today is the anniversary of my own father's death.