The Ballad Of Sea Sick Bill

Old Bill sat in his lonely home
and watched the pennies wane.
The boiler was spent, a chill crept in
’til Bill fell ill, again.

Lost, ignored by the welfare state,
he rose from his worn chair,
set off for the close harbour and
the boat that they had shared.

He walked through town, mumbling Russian,
tilting his head and cap
which declared him a sailor once.
He left without a map.

Wind rippled against his blemished skin
Bill was free, at long last.
The ocean stretched before him blue
his own Heaven sprawled vast.

He forgot the spent pill bottle
in his kitchen cupboard,
saw flashing spots on the horizon
and, nauseous, staggered starboard.

As waves crashed so did Bill,
cap spilt onto wet planks.
Jewelled waters burnt black, faded,
Four miles south of Sandbanks.

The boat bucked and was carried out,
the shore became a speck.
The skies grew dark, shrouded grey, while
Bill lay still on the deck.

A damp salt kiss woke him gently
as the boat rocked, sea spraying.
An albatross above circled high,
Bill watched and started praying.

Low whispers on the tide rolled in,
velvet tones laced golden
amidst the blue, and turning Bill
saw his wife’s ghost – Olwen.

She steered him back: “Bill, take the wheel.”
He banked Northwards, turning,
listened to her recall their home,
his head, jumbled, burning.

He held hands laced in thick seaweed
her wedding ring, rusted.
Tasted algae on barnacled lips
traced skin familiar, crusted.

She stayed until his feet touched sand,
arriving back at port.
He left them tethered, both Olwen,
the name bold upon the boat.

Returning home he found it cold,
sank into his chair resigned.
Letters for unpaid bills on his floor,
his pleas for help denied.

The bottle stayed empty for a week.
Bill saw his wife one last time
Her hand rested on the windowsill,
She said “Join me, it’s fine.”

Bill met her, like an old river
gives itself to the sea.
Found her in an Atlantic dream,
and stayed there, forever free.


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