But Soundly Sailing

Listen to the poem

Last night, down in the street, the kids were there
till after three, singing and shouting till
they’d had too much to drink and disappeared.
Not near enough to keep me up, the noise
lapped at my bedclothes all the time, tugging
so that I felt I wasn’t quite in bed
but with one leg still stranded on the floor.
At four o’clock upon the roof just six
or seven paces through the air from where
I lay, my nearest neighbours, the seagulls
which have vikinged up the river to feed
upon the town, woke up and started to cavort—
it must be mating season. And through the night
I bobbed upon the surface of my sleep,
not wholly in or out, and all the time
eyes open or eyes closed, I dreamt I was
upon that boat I took in Finland long ago,
the floors and furnishings all lavishly
adorned with sprawled, disjointed passengers,
besotted, sozzled, soaked with aquavit.
The crew was nowhere to be seen, perhaps
we were just drifting. The only lively
sight the action-painting gulls as they went
stirring up the liquid sky and flying
like a band of whooping, circling Indians
in an ancient Western film and steering us
exultantly past silent dawnswept houses
deep into Stockholm’s golden watery morning heart.

  Phillip Hill 2007


(This poem is included in my book The Observation Car which is available from

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