Old Men are Facts


the Ships’ Graveyard, Risdon, Tasmania

When I was a boy I heard the sea upstairs in a shell.
I wanted to climb the spiral of sound
and make my life in its white storm:
its great storms were a part of me —
O part of me I have not found.

I spun the globe beneath my hand
and every port was a hive of love:
the fever hid along her mouth
but I was young with a storm in my head
and over the north lay my cold south.

There is a life in facts: old men are facts:
I am a fact we all live through.
My face is old like the back of a shell
and I say less than I can tell.

Old men are facts as cabins are that bend the grass,
as funnels are like empty trees.
And yes these ships were washed up here
by fallen seas
to die along the withering shore;
I am an old man in a narrow hut;
these ships are part of me like memories;
and yes these portholes stare out my lame years
and in the dark and closing night
I turn life over in my hand.

Even if I could tell you of that land,
that subtle country of my heart,
I would only say in the windy shade:
old men are part of what they make and what is made.

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