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The Spike [: or, Victoria University College Review 1957]

Charles Doyle

page 74

Charles Doyle

Dark Harbour

Shadow and water, water, water and shadow.
A night with fine rain falling; through the dark
Bright flowers of voices blossom, the light sound
Of water lapping the looming hull and rain
Tapping the black tarpaulins, break the silence
As a ship prepares for tomorrow's outward voyage.

They have stowed away in the shadowy hold's deep sound
A thousand dreams, a dream for every shadow.
All night long, till the morning watch, the rain
Pours out of a black sky defining the silence,
And that grey ship, alerted for her voyage,
Waits for the banishment of the Nantucket dark.

Then before morning storm booms out of the dark
And the hands of thunder tear the enshrining silence.
The Captain hovers, an Ahab in the shadow,
Taut with the fear that there will be no voyage;
A voice in his brain, echoing every sound,
Tells of the gathered fury of the rain.

All night long, till the morning watch, the rain
Speaks to him of the folly of his voyage,
His dreams desert him one by one in the dark;
But at eight bells of the morning watch the sound
Of rain and thunder and wind dies away, and the shadow
Creeps out of the harbour leaving only silence.

The sun comes up and, in the first light's silence.
Drives out the last retreating drops of rain.
With blare of klaxons the grey ship starts her voyage,
Setting her course from the hill-girt harbour's shadow,
Pushes her bow-wave away from the storm-beaten dark
Of the wrecked jetty into the green deep sound.

page 75

Through a white foam of seas she makes her voyage
Slowly, through waters far too deep to sound,
Pursuing a dream amid the whitening silence.
Yet on her bridge there lingers still the dark
Thought of the storm, words of the threatening rain.
She voyages navigated by a shadow.

And on the jetty haunted by his shadow
A figure crouches, cursing the long rain;
Still eager, like Odysseus, to embark.


Hydrogen Bomb Tests

A pillar of white smoke
Three miles up in the sky
As an emblem for our times;
Those small things we live by,
Love of wife or child,
Care of a green plot,
Are denied by this giant folly
And the day must come when not
One vestige of charity,
Compassion for suffering,
Will remain of our shredded comfort
And man shall be as nothing.

Yet an emblem for the times
Is what we need; for those few
Who have the heart to make
Decisions and pursue
Even to outer darkness
Love's meaning for our day,
Carrying their defiance
Under a threatening sky,
March out against the crowd,
Cry out against the surge
Of inhumanity,
And with their whole beings urge
A better way to declare
All that is great in man,
Sure, beyond bomb or slogan,
Since our journey began.

page 76

We shall earn by indifference
Hiroshima or worse,
Children screaming at emptiness,
The blind man's curse,
The crippled lamentations
Of tattered bodies thrown
Into a pit of flesh
As putrid as their own.

Casuist politicians
Chasing fanatic dreams,
Thin-lipped, may cast upon us
A thousand dooms,
Or one long doom in a moment.
The shattering of man,
Ending the dreams we've cherished
Since the journey began.

So it must happen
If a pushed button can kill
All strength and loveliness
And destroy the human will.
Now the shape of the world is made
In a pillar of white smoke.
If it should grow taller
Our human love will choke.