The Duke of Nowhere

I was the son of the Duke of Nowhere.
Nowhere was home. The first sound I remember

was engines sawing steam, the butt
and squeal of waggons full of clunk

shunted cruelly. Lifted to the window sill
I had my first sight of our exile

as I thought: Here, me,
watching… There, trains, going away…

He was living incognito
but his secret was safe with me.

I was the solitary heir to everything
he never once mentioned. I guessed

from his brooding, his whole silent days,
it must be vast. The lost estates

grew vaster in the weeks,
then months, he went away and stayed.

Beyond the roofs, beyond the dockyard wall
were cranes, then the edge of the world.

On a clear day I could watch grey frigates
climb it and slip over. I woke one night

to singing in the streets that suddenly
grew small as all the hooters of the fleet

brawled up together, blurting
Home…. as if any such place

existed, over the horizon, anywhere.

from Changes of Address: Poems 1980-1998 (Bloodaxe, 2001), first published in Son Of The Duke Of Nowhere (Faber, 1991), © Philip Gross 1991, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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