Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Boy Ashore by Bert Northwood

Remembering, and now too old to go afloat,
he plies his shuttle, as he breathes, unthinkingly;
under his rhythmic hands the orange twine
grows to a trammel net.
Beyond the waiting boats the shingle-shifting waves
thunder and hiss perpetually;
Eternity is measured in their shades.
He faces East, his old, long-sighted eyes
fixed on a wavering speck away at sea.
He shows no sign – he has at least an hour
before that diesel-engined lugger from Rye Bay,
making the shelter of the Harbour Arm,
will turn aside, line up her stem and surge
full power ashore, clean-beaching at her berth.
Cable and hauling-hook, already placed by him,
await her landing.
So it was in the days when he returned from sea,
either to flaunt a hard-won silvery catch
or sometimes count the notches in his belt
and starve awhile.
The lugger sailors then begged friendly winds
their help to haul the trawl.
Ashore, a nodding, plodding horse stepped daintily,
for all its massive bulk, the capstan cable o’er,
marking a hard-packed circle on the pebbled Stade
as inch by steady inch the weary boat
dragged to its mark a length beyond high tide.
Those circles still remain, but now
when he puts trammel net aside, lays shuttle by,
it’s he will work the winch, lay on the power,
haul up the boat – and ratify the homing.
Now he  is ‘Boy Ashore’ ….

Herbert (‘Bert’) Northwood won an award for this poem in the Sussex Poet of the Year Competition, 1988. Bert was a local councillor, a well-known and well-loved resident of Bohemia and he started the Bohemia Area Residents’ Association and the ‘Bohemian’ news magazine. Our grateful thanks to Peter Powell and Clive Linklater of Bookman’s Halt for bringing this poem to our attention. ‘Boy Ashore’ – ‘utterly convincing, getting into the very heart and mind, the very soul of the subject, an outstanding poem’ (competition adjudicator).

1 Comment

  1. It was long Bert Northwood’s ambition to win a prize at the Sussex Poet of the Year competition, and at last, this one was placed … very shortly after his death. The poem came into my mind recently, and I was wondering whom I could contact for a copy – on a chance, I Googled it and could hardly believe my eyes when I found the words here. Thank you very much. Bert was a good friend to my parents and me.

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