The Red Funnelled Boat

The Red-Funnelled Boat

Comrades, since it’s evident
that the voices teasing us at nightfall
with their inklings of another island
where Jerusalem might be builded,
are at best of shady origin,
and more likely beg the question
of the demon in the synapse,

let’s go line up at the jetty
for the red-funnelled boat to take us
by black-watered sea-lochs
to its approximate asylum
– aliéné, égalité, fraternité
inscribed on the gateposts
and the inside of the inmates’ foreheads

where we might hope to be permitted,
under the benevolent dictatorship
of the monthly needle,
to establish our republic
of tweeds and decorum:
one last collective indulgence
in the dreams of the mind politic.

Between the ashlar ward-blocks
and the rusticated boundary,
the light will be democratic
on the backs of garden details
and the chronically second-sighted,
the electrodes reserved only
for those weeping over their Isaiah.

Tell those who come after
how we boarded in one body,
feeling, but not flinching at
the bow’s one long incision
down the firth’s dark mirror:
the red stump of its funnel lifted
as high as it was ploughing under.

- Peter Armstrong, psychiatric nurse and poet.

Thanks to Professor Nicol Ferrier, whose father was the local surgeon on Bute.

Patients from Bute were transported by one of MacBrayne's ferries which were characterized by their red funnel. Hence leading to the colloquialism that those who were odd or strange were “ready for the red-funneled boat.