Brian Allgar : A Walk Upon the Beach

I came upon a queer old duck −
some wretched tramp down on his luck? −
an antiquated morning coat,
a musty smell, a whiff of stoat,
white-flannelled, though the day was cold,
the trouser-bottoms neatly rolled.

He scribbled in a little book
with trembling fingers, hands that shook,
and muttered words, as though dismayed,
like “coffee spoons” and “marmalade”,
or  “sawdust”, “mermaids”, “ragged claws” . . .
He mumbled on without a pause.

The fellow was completely cracked,
but when I thought of all he lacked,
I had to give him 50p
to buy himself a cup of tea,
and fumbled in my coat for change.
Now, here’s the thing that’s rather strange:

He took the coin and, with a sigh,
said “Let us go then, you and I.”
He seemed to flicker and was gone;
the merest echo lingered on.
I heard him murmur plaintively:
“I do not think they’ll sing to me.”

Poor fellow! What a chance he missed
with me, a famed psychiatrist!
But craziness is not a crime;
I think of him from time to time
with mild amusement. All the same,
I wish at least I’d asked his name.