John Kelly

Ferlinghetti in Derry

Ferlinghetti in Derry


In a wooden boat, like Colm Cille,
Ferlinghetti searched the depths

for monsters that might eat his men –
German U-Boats fed on Tory Island cod.

So, you can rhyme the city, if you will,
with Ferlinghetti – Lieutenant Commander

US Navy; skipper in the Splinter Fleet
on the open, choppy Foyle.

A friend of mine who knew the poet well
told me this as Gospel – though,

as far as I can tell, he’s wrong.
The Western Isles of Scotland

seems the place – watchful, spring manoeuvres
between Lewis and South Uist,

between Protestant and Catholic,
between Clan Morrison and the Bonnie Prince.

I heard him reading once – the poet Lawrence,
dressed in dungarees and bowler hat

like a half-dressed Orangeman
from Short and Harland’s in 1945,

and a woman fainted when he said
that six weeks after the mushroom cloud

he took a long, slow train to Nagasaki
and found almost nothing there

except for a teacup, and, welded into it,
was human flesh and bone.

Sometimes I see a man just like him –
or his elegant shade at least –

walking up a slope in North Beach;
the posture of a long-retired officer,

long given over to poetry and peace.
And tonight, seeing him abroad again

on one of Derry’s steeper streets, I ask him
how he moves so well beyond the dying.

And, as a by the by, was he ever here at all?
In a boat made of oak and Oregon pine.


Comments are closed.