In The Beginning
The old man's vacant stare was out to sea,
His back against the bollards on the quay,
His face was of that wind-taught grain
As if his skin had never brooked
A calm; as if his eyes had looked
On nothing but the whip of salt and rain.
Making no sound
But the scratch of a jack knife on the bung
Of a Demerara sugar-keg
And an intermittant thump
Against a loosened timber as his leg,
Made of cork and hickory, swung
Upon the swivel of his rump.
"They call that fellow - Tatterhead,
A harmless, whitless fellow,"said
Leopold to Theodore,
As arm in arm they strolled along the shore.
"A beastly, uneventful life indeed,"
Quoth Leopold, whose tender mouth
Was sucking at a chocolate meraschino.
"They say he cannot read or write,"
This from the lips of Theodore,
Whose head was sleekly combed below
A tilted Borsalino.
"Come let us go; these dreary rains!"
So home they went - and with their deadly canes,
They murdered dandelions by the score.
But eighteen years before, one wild March night,
When those young bloods,
In the roseglow of candelabra light,
And smooth with olive oil and Castile suds,
Were drooling on their bibs,
This weazened tar, through bonds of ice and hemp,
Incorporate with a wheel,
Had watched two shuddering jibs
Dip to a plunging keel,
In a northern strait - somewhere
Within the track of Frobisher.
E.J. Pratt 1882 - 1964