A Fine Line

Kerrigan whittles the timber –
allows a leeway – a safe margin –
leaves the cabinet man to plane
“trim as Mary Pickford” – goes over

to wrestle and steer home
the spindles to the cresting rail,
coax the stretcher, dove its tail
and sail his hand up the form

patting the five point low relief star,
praising the craftsman at his bench
who chisels a personal touch
on ships furniture beaux arts.

On the Antrim hills, fog is sand
and the horses choke and chafe
but the cart is hitched, made safe.
Kerrigan has a currier’s hand.

In rhythmical joy, the men hand down
seat on seat, neat as Morse Code.
The wagon creaks like a whale’s bone –
a din that his cheery song drowns.

Donning his vest, he stops to invoke
Saint Coleman, give the chairs a scrub.
He heaves them onto the ship at Cobh
sleek in their coats of shellac.

He sets the deck chairs stern abreast.
Then, being kindly, twists them clear
of the sad eye-line of Heartbreak Pier.
He ponders, turns them back once more.

A Fine Line received Second prize in the Ilkley Literature
Festival poetry competition 2013, judged by Gillian Clarke.