The Laminex Table at 19 French Street, Launceston, Tasmania

The feature of the blue, laminex table
is depth and my grandfather’s elbows
which are flat like elephant’s feet from holding up his arms,
the story he’s telling, and the cigarette smoke, blue like the spring sky,
blue like the ocean beyond the green shoals–
and I ask him, “Do things go on and off continuously
though it’s hard to catch them at it,
or do some things hum along all the time?”
The desperate men start to cut the masts free
and she wallows horribly, horribly–
the least of their worries as they drift,
having arrived into being as if at a party
in which everyone was invited home from the pub of natural selection
just as they are, but a little drunk, as the hailstones go on and off
like night inside day, the sun in between as yellow as daffodils,
and the desperate men hum along, or wink on and off,
eating the ship’s rats,
quite convinced, and even peaceful
as the iron ship rolls her lee under, under, and rolls back,
without rigging, galley or any deck structure,
and the children sit at the blue table,
the milk blue on the oatmeal, the blue kilted dancer
on Granddad’s forearm, rising and falling
like hail on a spring day, like the deck,
the children exhilarated, beginning
to bounce up and down in a way they had never expected to,
the cold cross swells of the North Atlantic Ocean
lifting them, letting them fall.

— John Tarrant