Stanza 2

This verse opens with the arrival of the ferry. The onomatopoeic chugged is child-like and once again emphasises the silence of the scene, as it is a soft sound. We are told the boat does not break the skin of the water, which suggests a supernatural quality as it glides into the shore. The water is described as being black as my stout conveying its sinister nature as well as reminding us of the speaker’s glass of Guinness which gives him a foam lip.

Paterson uses the image of the waves endlessly moving towards the shore to explore our fixation with death and how with a nutter’s persistence we revisit the mystery again and again trying to read / and re-read it. The use of shoreline here makes us think of the barrier between life and death – that pivotal moment that eludes us.

Paterson also implies that such analysis of death will make us mad – as only nutters do this. In this sense it is better to turn our backs on it. The sibilance that permeates these lines stout, somewhere unspeakable, mussitates endlessly evokes the sound of the sea as well as corresponding with other soft sounds in the poem like the hum of the pool table, the chugging boat. Again this could suggest the omnipresence of death – it is there like white noise, always in the background and we can choose to tune into it or not.

The final lines of the poem see the speaker leave his doppelganger in the pool-room while he gets on the ferry. The phrase losing opponent is significant, as we are forced to question just who the loser is. The fact that the speaker is his own opponent implies that he is both winner and loser. By existing in this world we win like the unpotted ball, but in dying we lose, disappearing into an unfathomable darkness. Until then we must still play the game, knocking the balls in until the game is played out. The poem ends with the persona doing just that. The phrase for next time implies death will return.