Poetry: Manly Ferry | clivejames.com
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Manly Ferry

Too frail to fly, I may not see again
The harbour that I crossed on the South Steyne
When I was still in short pants. All the boys
Would gather at the rail that ran around
The open engine-room. The oil, the noise
Of rocking beams and plunging rods: it beat
Even the view out from the hurdling deck
Into the ocean. The machinery
Was so alive, so beautiful, so neat.

Years later the old ferries disappeared,
Except for the South Steyne, which looked intact
Where she was parked at Pyrmont, though a fire
Had gutted her. I loved her two-faced grace:
Twin funnels, and each end of her a prow,
She sailed into a mirror and back out,
Even while dead inside and standing still:
Her livery of green and gold wore well
Through years of weather as she went nowhere
Except on that long voyage in my mind
Where complicated workings clicked and throbbed
And everything moved forward at full strength.

And then, while I was elsewhere, she was gone:
And now I, too, await my vanishing,
Which, unlike hers, will be for good. She went
Away to be refitted. In her new
Career as a floating restaurant
She seems set for as long as oysters grow
With chilled white Cloudy Bay to wash them down:
A brilliant inner city ornament.
But is it better to be always there
Than out of it, and just a fading name?
For me, her life was when the engine turned.
Soon now my path across the swell will end.
If I can’t work, let me be broken up.