drifting indistinct between night and never
the first watch returns, sheets pulled in,
two faces full of weariness, open collars,
sliding up next to dangerous passengers,
unfinished dreams, lovers gone, landings missed,
shallow harbours of the soul, wrecks and sand bars.

breaths drag across the cotton, drawn out calico curtains,
end cords hanging by the window, unturned
gossiping winds licking at the metal roof,
great danes smelling for bones, howling at night,
unleashed and scavenging under bushes, pushing on.

You are still there beside me when I start, soft sighs,
used to this sort of disturbance, I take the second watch
alone in the lounge, neighbours so loud in the throws of love,
the man drowning, caught in anguish, the woman pulling him to,
concrete walls closing in on a courtyard full of echoes.

The radio goes in and out of frequency,
no help there, we must drift along unmapped,
weaving patterns on patterns, me, sitting up,
you, sleeping warm against the coldness of the hour,
waves spilling over the edge of the earth.

In the morning there are shadows in the sunlight,
hot toast burns while I sleep at last, early hours gone,
while I am sleeping still you take the washing round to your mother's,
a much larger place with its own lines,
the dingy beached above the tide, drying out in winter sun,
light winds and peace, space to stretch out.

I am left on board, using up the anchor,
more hot toast, cinnamon bread, weekly chores,
listening to old tapes and writing to friends,
often forgetting to return the favour, I know you'll be back,
Your books are still here.

© Thomas Mitchell 1996