Richard W Halperin – Ferryman

Halperin LE P&W June 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing June 2023

Ferryman, poem by Richard W Halperin.


Ferryman, bring her across the river.
It is evening in every sense, it is evening
and I ask, Ferryman, bring her
across the river. Who is her?
Is it the Madwoman in Britten’s
brilliant Curlew River? Is it
Macdara Woods’s mother in
The Nightingale Water, which should
have won him the Nobel Prize
and which I must have read
a hundred times at least over the years.
Is it my own mother, Ferryman?
I was not there when she passed.
I can hear the river, I can hear it loudly now,
like a good slap in the face,
like the torrent that it is, but with
calm moments, the moments
when you, Ferryman, can cross.
I can see who is on the boat,
they are glad to be on the boat,
they are glad there is a boat
and a Ferryman. With his pole.
With his competence. He is not
a Daddy, he is not a gondolier
with a hat and ribbons flying,
he knows the river, he sings
but far too softly to be heard.
There the boat is, on my side of the river.
Ferryman, bring her across the river.
Ferryman, at last she cries, at last she asks,
with dignity, bring me across the river.
She does not know that I have been
asking the same thing for her,
she is not thinking of me now.

© Richard W Halperin

Richard W. Halperin’s poems are published by Salmon/Cliffs of Moher and by Lapwing/Belfast. Salmon has listed Selected & New Poems for Autumn 2023; it will draw upon poems from Mr. Halperin’s four Salmon and sixteen Lapwing collections, on the occasion of his 80th birthday. A new Lapwing, The Painted Word, will appear this Spring.

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