Sunday 20 July 2014


This is an early, uncollected poem of disappointed love which came back to my mind on holidays here in Istria. (See my previous blogs 'Waterfronts in Istria, Croatia' and 'Did Magritte Holiday in Novigrad?' for pictures.)
The poem surfaced again probably because we are staying in an apartment 80 metres from the sea front, and the constant sound and sight of the sea called it up out of the bittersweet depths of my memory.
'Sea Shanty' is set in Northumberland, England, in a little harbour town famous for its kippers. I camped near the harbour there with my girl friend of the time – it was the famously sweltering summer of '76 – and we used to fry kippers on an old hubcap in the mornings. I had thought of bringing a pan for the holiday, but left it on the bus from Newcastle!


A bitter breeze blows off the wall of little Craster Harbour
and tousles a balding head which for a year has seen no barber.
I sit on the stone steps and watch the surface of my lager
get flecked with flying grime as life gets harder.

I sip my grimy beer and Oh there’s nothing I would rather
than be that seagull perched upon that rock out in the harbour.
Now you discard me as you would the stale food in your larder.
Your appetite went so far and no farther.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll 1976


  1. Like this poem a lot Ciaran, hope its in a next collection if there is one on the Horizon ( a la U2)

    1. Glad you like Sea Shanty, Ricky. The poem will probably feature in my next collection, which will be a big one, a selection of my own 'best' poems from many sources. Give it a few years! Ciaran

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