Poems from the Coast | A Maritime Poetry Series
The latest in our series of maritime inspired poems by Daniel Wade is a tribute to the unique Irish tradition of boat-building in particular the iconic Galway hooker.
Caithfidh an fharraige a chuid féin a fháil† – Gaelic proverb
Connemara terns plumb the wild surface
quarrying for mackerel in icy deepwater.
The tourist season is winding down; nervous,
tacking, a yacht glides out of Kinvara Harbour
for the night, stiff crosswinds jangling her gasket,
alert for rocks, tidemarks, or a spiked shift in the calm.
Refuge isn’t to be found on the Great Blasket
or Inishkea, mercy pending in the palm
of providence’s hand. Tarred maroon sails dapple
the cove, cut finer than hemp. Forebears implant
a practise that modernity may never drown, in chapel
and boatyard, to bear the surf’s hissing filament.
Spiddal jetty, sloping and fogged as a beached hulk,
lets the lash of their headfast in, the wake’s white signature
blurring the upsurge’s line, the hollow keel to caulk
with pitch and moss. Puzzling sheets of gossamer
mist steam over mountain and sea. Peace and love
are words to be scoffed at; skill holds all the value.
Hard as the nails driven home amid strakes, they hove
to in the October dusk, veteran single-handed crew,
their leathery backs turned on bogland and field
for the sake of wind-rattled seas, stone-choked shores,
the cut and clamour of craft, oak-ribbed and sealed,
staunch timbers to creak the course.
Led by the boom’s high-flying shaft, they buck
savagely on a rip current, robbed of sleep, a haul
of bodies stewing coldly amidships. Neither luck
nor lenience shore them; the foghorn’s grunt, a full-
toned animus for the shade, rumbles over the bay
each hour, the last sound to seal up the ear
along the gurgling lullaby of a rogue wave,
high and dry in a sou’wester’s icy crosshair.
The boats have grown old with a grace that they,
the makers, can no longer recognise.
So let day end and dusk thrive with the tidemark;
let the shells whisper of storms in shingly vowels
when tentacled kelp is brought in to sell.
This is the Atlantic way, tempting to the stranger
who lacks the inborn grit to sail the sea
but not the frightened awe to admire it,
who hikes its wind-dry cliffs in order to catch
a glimpse of arched sails and flailing masts
careening the wet burden, and snaps the grey eddy
thrashing and coming about on spluttered ebbs.
For the bádóirí, a harbour is a proven miracle.
Turns are taken on the tiller; they shoot out nets
as if to haul immortality from the pouring backwash.
Quayside and oar will bear out the briny crash.
*Literally, boatmen or boatmasters.
†’The sea will always take its full portion’.
About Daniel Wade
Daniel Wade is a poet and playwright from Dublin, Ireland. He is a graduate of Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology where he studied English and Journalism.
Check out his website danielwadeauthor.com for more.