Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


by Robert Nisbet

Tall, sandy-haired, mild-mannered Bokes,
just leaving school, sixteen, the Merchant Navy
the Monday next. And nobody made a speech.
I walked with Bokes to his house.
Behind us, boyhood’s scuffling certainties,
mitching, matches, youth’s music.
Ahead of Bokes, I could not, could not see.
But he was peering then, that day,
out to the distances of diesel’s range.
In Mother Clark’s, the sweet shop, I bought
old Bokes a lollipop. Iced. Raspberry.
Hey boy, you can’t do that.
I can. You’re leaving.

I next saw Bokes at a reunion, some  
fifty-two years on. And he … ?
Half-million miles of ocean (my estimate),
much of it in the far Pacific, and often too
the Arctic Circle. Later, two oil rigs.
Still the mild and sandy Bokes. And I … ?
Stayed local, classrooms, seminars,
studied the iambic pentameter,
Petrarchan sonnet, irony.

I’ll get you a pint, said Bokes,
as a summer evening sank on the harbour
outside the Starboard Inn. A pint.
You bought me a lollipop, the day I left.

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