The day he turned eighteen
he sailed out of Liverpool
on a corvette that nipped
at the heels of slow tramps,
shepherding them to Boston.
He listened to the sounds of radio
silence, the breath of the Atlantic,
the beat of ships’ engines and
the wolf pack* stalking.
All that time he was cold, wet,
hungry and frightened, except
for one week in Barbados where
they picked up a convoy, carrying
sugar so beleaguered Britons
could sweeten their rationed tea.
There he bought a gift for his mother,
guarded it back to ‘the Pool’
and stepped ashore past piles
of rubble which had been warehouses.
Tired people in drab austerity smiled
to see the young sailor heading
through shattered streets, sea bag on shoulder
carrying a great bunch of bananas, lush and
gold on that grey Liverpool day.