Picture of the Vessel Agnes

Issue NineIssue Nine PoetryPoetry

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by Hugh McMillan


A Picture of the vessel

Agnes, near Dockfoot



Taken here most likely,

at this mooring now

swamped by grass

and fired by columbine.
The barque is sleek,

bowspritted and carvel built,

reeking I think

of fresh logs and linseed,
her figurehead carved

with the face of the owner’s

daughter, a beauty

dead of smallpox.
Her arm is raised,

palm upwards, to soothe

the angry seas.

The crew must be
at the Mermaid or the

Turk’s Head, brandy alive

in their blood. It is a hot day

I think, the town
in early summer heat haze.

Some figures on the bank

merge with the glare like ghosts.

I strain my eyes, look further
beyond the blur

where photograph leaks

to history and shimmers

like mercury.


Only imagination

crosses the river there

and it is easy through the filter

of a little reading


and some episodes

of Poldark to feel Dumfries

rollicking with dark life and love.

I know one thing, though,


from the immutability of records.

The ship will slip out soon

on a full tide,

and never return.