The Navy groaned through its traditions.
Fats Domino sang ‘Blueberry Hill’;
It came through a hatch from America.
The mothballed minesweepers pretended to be
A chorus line of the Western World,
Young ladies fallen into disrepute.

This dusk is that dusk, its perfect duplicate,
Down to the four swans, an evening mist
That turns the conifers to Western Blue.
They’ve closed the jetty down as ‘dangerous’;
But I have nothing to lose, and I walk it,
An admiral of water, mist and dusk.

I waited on that hand of salty planks;
The air was the fingertips of loneliness.
A boy in the Valhalla of the age,
In an oily fo’c’sle, I listened to
Purred tedium in a Cold War anchorage.
My kit-bag was a pillar of salt with my name on it.

And I have turned to look back on a life
That has happened and died, most of it with mine.
Varicose barnacles have more grip than I have.
I take a salute of pine-cones and lolly-sticks,
The flotillas of flotsam. Four swans depart
The way they did in 1957.

I hear the rhetoric of the depot ship,
Its propaganda filtered through
Its cups of radar, its mesh of aerials.
I shall transmit my elegies from here –
This station at the place called Western Blue –
A thousand messages beside the point.

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