Deborah Moffatt

Of Boats and Bars

There were bars, on the island,
and boats, more bars than boats,
beginning in Finnegan’s, for lunch,
beer, for the adults, ginger ale, for us,
cigarette smoke clouding the afternoon,
the promise of the boat receding.

Between bars, there were boats,
entire days spent sailing on the Sound,
drinks on board around the wheel, for them,
while we, drunk on sea-spray and strong sun,
sat on the heeling deck, our legs dangling down
over the water, feet skimming the rising waves.

At night, there were discs of green phosphorus
floating in the dark water, and above the harbour
the neon lights of restaurants and bars: more drinks,
Scotch, for them, ice cream with Crème de Menthe, for us,
and at a piano, a man crooning love songs, sultry looks
burning through wreaths of smoke, romance in the air.
The next day there were recriminations and rumours
we weren’t meant to hear; they drank strong black coffee
at Finnegan’s, a blanket of smoke hanging heavy
while we, bored, stared at posters on the wall – the
Rheingold Girls
and the Yankees, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle – or,
slipped outside to look at the boat, waiting for the clouds
to lift.

Finally, there was the long trip home in the car, heading
through diesel reek to a place where there were no bars,
only genteel drinks behind closed doors, and no boats,
no sea, only green pastures and trees, and in the back
we would sit in sullen silence, sucking salt from our hair
and dreaming of an island romance, of boats, and bars.

Deborah Moffatt was born and raised in Norwich, Vermont, USA. Her home was seven miles out of town on a dirt road that went nowhere. Trees and cows were her immediate neighbours. In 1982 Deborah travelled to Scotland, and soon settled there, having married a Scot. She now lives in Kingsbarns, a small village near St. Andrews, Fife. She has a demanding garden and a huffy cat.