AUGUSTUS YOUNG        light verse, poetry and prose

  a regular webzine of new and unpublished work


A Single Skuller

Living Skin

The Final Whistle


The Island

from Rosemaries



My Dominant Characteristic

Life as a Serious Person

The Little Talker

1976, revised 2007

Learning to Fish

Taken out in the boat.
Oars in the air, men pause.
Eyes like the land remote.
No one knew where I was.

Among strangers. Oilskin
around me, at the prow.
Brought along on a whim.
Can’t be left behind now.
Sky and sea much the same
in my mind. Sight a shark.
Spray falls on me like rain.
Waves ploughed through throw up dark

wrinkled weeds, underneath
an island once. A seal,
seagulls, and the men speak
of something there, and feel
for sprats over the side,
pulling the oars in,
drifting, the sea is quiet.
Shoals break like stones that skim.

I am told what to do
when the lines come alive -
to finger the throats through
and unhook with a knife.
Bright fish aboard are lobbed
that hardly took the bait
before they twist (my job)
and turn into deadweight.
Rowing back with the tide
forgot I was a joke,
and took my place with pride
beside the men; they spoke

confidingly of trips
in the past, trawlers rammed
beyond the bay, steam ships
on the skyline becalmed.

Called in at Roberts Cove,
the first headland we hit;
lighting a primus stove,
put freak fish on the spit.

And as darkness came down
we feasted on seabream.
And heard the foghorn sound.
Returning home in a dream.

Learning to be Saved

Thrown in at the deep end
to be life-saved for practice,
dragged out, and made to bend
backwards. Seniors in tracksuits

massage the heart, healthy clouts
on pigeon-chests, while elbows
work water up, turned about
on flat of face. Back in clothes

the boy who had a close shave
is now among the elect,
and can muster up a brave
face; he will not be the next.

The Ropes

Putting down a tent, they stayed
all summer, threw up their jobs,
lived from the sea; though farm raids
for chickens were spoken of;

after dark they could be seen
in the vegetable patch
scouring the ground out for greens
or by day selling a catch

to trippers on the main strand
who came down in their busloads
for a paddle and a tan,
returning home with sore throats;

or more often on the cliff
doing nothing; and from the path
bypassers could see a whiff
of pipesmoke or hear a laugh -

hard men all. Boys hung around
their armycamp; when it rained,
although it was out of bounds,
we knew the ropes, and remained

stragglers to admire the life
free from clocks and table-meals
and bedtimes. With a penknife
they put us to do the peels.

Once a camper flashed a note.
The leader took it from him,
and with a gesture remote,
tore it up into the wind.