Mona’s Isle was the first to make the trip.
One of the chartered ferries, built for transit
and well equipped to cherish personnel.
Despite shore batteries and fighter planes
she made it back with fourteen hundred souls.
When Canterbury went, she braved the guns
and tied up in the harbour. Set off back
with stretcher cases. Then a signal came
Tell them in Dover that the little ships
had better not attempt to do this run.
He passed it on. Some little ships turned back.
Another message came – No, no, you fool,
we need the little ships, but it’s not safe
to use the harbour. Send them to the beaches –
which was where they’d been heading all along.
A minor cockup, easily put right.
An hour or so at most, but it has cost him
longer than three score years of itching “if”,
counting up costs in possibilities.
Now he makes paper boats and sends them out
with stick-men crews into untroubled waters
to please his grandchildren, and then remembers
the blunder in the dark, under the guns.
Sometimes he wakes at night, calling them back,
blowing them with his breath across the Channel,
sending them speeding over the lost hour,
putting it right, as if there were still time.
Last edited by Ann Drysdale; 11-23-2023 at 07:20 AM.