The Drunken Sailor

He stood there shouting at the night
At trees and all around
He stood there swaying side to side
A madness man yet proud.

He never lost his footing once
He danced a dance wild mad
I stood there watching for a while
And wondered what thing had
Made him the drunken sailor
Had made him curse the earth
Had made him babble endlessly
How long had he been berthed?

Three years sailing, sailing hard
He had been away
He was just back
Two days ashore
Had made him act this way.

I asked the drunken sailor
Was it grief or loss at sea?
His eyes gazed at me strangely
And looked quite straight through me.

Not grog he said with spitting words
Not grief and, no, not anger
Have side-showed me on solid ground
And made me my own stranger
My sea legs that have gone you see
And though this warm earth's still
I have sway from side to side
It's quite beyond my will
The rolling sea's a bitch you know
More then any lover
You ride and ride and ride it hard
And then, when you recover,
You find the sea now owns your legs
Owns too your salted soul
So, when you are back on dry land
You somehow do not know
How to stop the bucking bitch
How to be becalmed
You stand there screaming at the earth
For it to be aroused.

Without a moving deck, he said
We feel as if we're dead
It's commonplace with sailors
And we become the wrecks.

.

by David Keig

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