Longshore Intellectual

After all, Charlie, we shall see them go,
And feel renewal with the buff sails stirring,
After this bad weather the tall fleets will embark
Leaving the women on the quayside staring.
The dark pubs at night will become old men’s places,
Where the wind rattles the barroom shutters,
Knowing only in retrospect the loud voices and beery faces
Dim as the inarticulate story the senile drinker stutters.
And after all, Charlie, they are the men of action;
We chose the shore life of the seedy dreamer,
Deliberately abandoning the ships then weighing anchor,
Deliberately ignoring the bravado recruiting drummer.
It only needles us when they come home in glory
In camaraderie and the glow of doing,
Making their memory into a mutual and lovely story,
Leaving us wordless with our book contentment dying;
They steal our women and deride our wisdom,
They drink our whisky and borrow our possessions,
This is their ancient and abiding custom,
With uncultured voices and unbridled passions.
But after all, Charlie, we know how they end,
Their bodies washing on the beaches of far nations,
Their eyes black with salt water, their mouths full of sand
And their girl friends lonely — we have our consolations.