Anne Compton

Three Poems

Girls Rowing

after Sailing to Byzantium, W.B. Yeats, 1926

What with all the mackerel, and the trees full of birds
the left-behind elderly women still see possibility
though it’s no country for old men, or so they say,
having listened long to the sages
or figured themselves in that way.

The last to leave – white-haired, patrician – sits shawl-wrapped
on the middle thwart. Four rowers – two aft, two in the prow.

In fine fettle for a dying generation, he mutters,
knowing how those Achillean arms could warm
a man’s waist. He tries to concentrate on the Bosporus,
its little waves.

Don’t get me wrong, the forward one says to her mate,
I like wind-up birds, but let’s try to be back by evening
the salmon will be leaping over the fish-ladder
the old women singing
the tatters in their dress becoming.


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