Conversation

I sat by a sailor to learn of the sea,
But he swore as he drank,
Then he said to me:
“Leave it alone, lad, the sea’s a bitch.
    All smells and bells
    And bosun’s yells.
    The stokehole of a stinkhole,
    The galley a hell-hole.
And we’re carrying carrion into Cadiz.”
    “But what of the flying fish,
    White moon and mermen?
    What of the islands—
    Your tropical trips?”
But the sailor swore and laughed as he said,
“The sea would be fine if there weren’t any ships.”

I sat by a soldier to learn of the wars,
But he swore as he drank,
Then he said to me:
“Leave it alone, lad, the army’s a sod.
    Attention, detention
    And brasshat pretention,
    You spit and you polish,
    You fight and they promise.
And maybe you’ll find yourself bound for Cadiz.”
    “But what of the glory,
    The trumpets and singing?
    What of the friendship—
    The nation’s applause?”
But the solider swore and laughed as he said,
“Life would be fine if there weren’t any wars.”

I sat by an airman to learn of the sky,
But he sighed as he drank,
Then he said to me:
“Leave it alone, lad, the sky’s a witch.
    All zooming and booming
    And gunning and bombing,
    The pranging and slanging,
    All drinking, no thinking.
Forgetting the massacre—was it Cadiz?”
    “But what of the power,
    The freedom and stillness?
    How lovely to fly
    High over the town. . . .”
But the airman drank and swore as he said,
“To fly would be fine if you never came down.”

“Conversation,” by Elizabeth Berridge, from Modern British Writing, edited by Denys Val Baker, p.242, purchased at The Magic Door in Downtown Pomona.

This entry was posted in poetry. Bookmark the permalink.