POEM in PROGRESS: HARBOUR / THE HARBOUR SLEEPS THESE SHORES

I’m a bit of a serial reviser when it comes to my poems. More often than not, though, the tweaks past a certain point of the draft process leave the poem relatively recognizable as a slightly edited version of that first solid draft. That said, I’ve been revisiting a poem I originally started working on almost 4 years ago, in April 2011. While I’d been fiddling about with line breaks and punctuation in the intervening few years, over the last month or so the revision process took a more substantial turn.

The first draft of the then ‘new poem’ I posted in April 2011 looked like this:

 

THE HARBOUR SLEEPS THESE SHORES

 

This late, wet winter’s near dusk, from

the Dartmouth side of the harbour, the bridge

is not some cocktail party’s belched boast,

is not gin-fuelled and all red-cheeked and

breathless.          No, it is instead that sly killing

bit of mid-day office gossip. A near-rote

second cup of what’s barely-morning-anymore’s

insinuation; one that everyone’s sure they’ve heard

(Once more! Oh, tell me anyway!), but no one

can quite articulate or source.

          You know: if eyes had tips like tongues,

it could lie right there, the bridge.          Lie

on, it might.          Or so they’d have us believe.

After a fair bit of re-writing, here’s the January 2015, somewhat updated, version (abridged title and all):

 

HARBOUR

Distant objects please, because, in the first place, they imply an idea

of space and magnitude and because not being obtruded too close upon

the eye, we clothe them with the indistinct and airy colours of fancy.

 

– William Hazlitt

 

 

                 this late, wet winter’s near-dusk,

from the dartmouth side of the harbour, the bridge isn’t

some cocktail party’s belched boast; it’s not

gin-fuelled and all red-cheeked and breathless.          no.

it is, instead, a tongue almost held; a con’s hovering

steely-squint guile; an old rumour that’d just disappeared

for a while – that once-riveting bit of now chary gossip

(the mid-day, office-y stuff), let slip unintended,

as end-of-break cups slosh and spill gritty remains

in the sink.          we drink in, and get drunk on,

this logic at play; understand it as vague – a sort of suspension –

as eyes do us no favours from this spot on the shore.

but we still can’t ignore how this engineered bulk’s intermittency acts

as a proxy for falsehood at times and, what’s more,

often seems a tad bored with itself, too relaxed.        

                 given the view, we can’t help but conclude

it’s akin to some salacious quip we’re quite sure we’ve all heard

but not one of us dares to source or repeat.          its concrete and iron?

like envy, in theory: a hulking green monster, an amorphous abstraction

discretely strobe-surging in failing light’s fog.          we blink;

our minds jog.          and in the end what we’re left with,

we think, is just this: that which day’s faltering grasp on the view

would have us believe, hands arcing and arcing, again. and again.

the exact gist of those recurring waves hard to fathom.

 

I think this newer draft is still exploring much the same idea that the original 2011 poem was, but  this feels more robust to me. More complete. I hope you might enjoy it, if nothing more as a look at how poems sometimes grow and change.

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