Ted Hughes: “Devon Riviera” (poem)
Strange to find a Hughes poem more populated by people than animals; & you can tell he’s not happy about it:
Under the silk nightie of the August evening
The prepared resort, a glowing liner,
Leans toward happiness, unmoving.
The whole vessel throbs with dewy longing.
Grey, dazed heads, promenading their pots,
Their holiday shirts, their shrunk, freckled forearms,
With hobbling wives who look more like their mothers,
Smell rejuvenation in the ebb.
And lard-thickened ex-footballers, with their high-tension scowls,
Trailing headache wives and swollen kids
Towards another compulsory steak and chips
Sniff the beery skirts of liberation.
Mauve-dusted, balanced pairs of spinsters,
Walking to interest an appetite,
Venture their compass-delicate stomachs
Among guffaws and squeals and gaping perfumes.
Decent couples, rigid with loneliness,
Intermittently, with buttoned faces,
To the furnace interiors of fun-halls.
And easy girls from the North, their half-closed eyes
Fixed on the wine-dark sea-haze towards Jersey,
Loll back in cliff alcoves, above the town out-fall,
While waiters from Pisa gnaw their necks.
They see gulls dangling stainless cries
And colliding for tossed-up fish-guts
Above my chugging boat
That nudges happily home, through the purple,
Hauling the rich robe of sewage.