3the harder sort
4 who threw the harpoon,
5 drew warm blood,
6made huge death on the open sea.
7Came home one year
8 to find his land fenced
9for ecclesiastical uses,
10 tore it all down,
11told the priest to go to hell,
12 and would do his own praying
13 after that.
14Sailed till his knees went stiff
16on a ship stuck
17 in Antarctic ice.
18My father worshipped him,
19 remembered his deft hands
21 with a hammer and a handsaw.
22 The old man signalled
24 crafty hard of hearing,
25heard the boy’s words,
26 even took his daughter’s orders
27 when he called him “Sir!”
28Grew old jigging cod
29 on the southern shore,
30then fell from a roof
31 and lingered days to tell
32 his last stories,
33empty his mouth of good oaths.
34What I have of him
35 is my father’s reverence for
37 a sense that pain will kill you
38if you speak of it
2] Nantucket: island 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Back to Line
15] beri-beri: serious disease characterized by paralytic weakness and numbness of the legs. Back to Line
20] crackie: mutt, mixed-breed dog. Back to Line
Richard Greene, Crossing the Straits (Toronto: St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2004): 6-8.
RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire / Sharine Leung
Copyright © Richard Greene and used by permission of the poet.
Authorization to republish this poem must be obtained from him in writing.