/, Singer-songwriters/WHEN THE SHIP COMES IN BY BOB DYLAN Story by Vin Maskell


When the Ship Comes In from Birdwatchr on Vimeo.

Vin Maskell
Balaclava TAB, Melbourne, 1983

I pretty much stopped writing poems a long time ago. Twenty five years. Maybe more.  I found I preferred the river of prose to the billabong of poetry. (Maybe I also found that I wasn’t that flash at poetry, too.)

And, yet, in the dusty, rusty filing cabinets in the garage a few poems remain. Not thrown out. Not yet. Call me a sentimental, romantic fool.

One of the poems, written over 30 years ago, is called Waking For Her. It begins, This must be the hour the ship comes in

I’m guessing I borrowed the line from the song When The Ship Comes In from the Dylan album The Times They Are A –Changin’.

Oh the time will come up/When the winds will stop/And the breeze will cease to be breathin’/Like the stillness in the wind/’Fore the hurricane begins/The hour when the ship comes in/Oh the seas will split/And the ship will hit…

Not that my little poem is about politics or change or apocalyptic visions. Or ships. Far from it.

It’s about an hour of the day, of the early morning, dawn. It’s about paperboys and farmers and draught horses. And a woman.

Only the title of the poem suggests the woman,  and my young yearning.

I may have been waking for her, but she was not beside me.

We met at a TAB, a betting shop. The days we shared shifts serving gamblers were probably the days I had trouble balancing my till. I could blame that on the punters harassing me with only seconds left to bet on a race, waving handfuls of $50 bills at me and shouting out horse numbers.

But the till probably didn’t add up because all I could think of, as she stood just a metre or two away, unflustered by betting deadlines, was her voice, her laugh, her brown eyes, her cascading hair, her full figure. And the inexperience of my heart. (Plus another vital organ.)

I could talk work with her (daily doubles, trifectas, quadrellas, angry punters) and I could talk writing with her (my serious poetry, her TV scripts about neighbours) but I could never say what I wanted to say. Instead I put clumsy words on paper and left them on her windscreen. Romantic. Hopeless?  Pathetic?  I get nervous, now, just remembering.

We had some meals together. Went on some drives together, leaving early in the day.  I abandoned the windscreen communiqués and posted love letters and poems to her eastern suburbs home. We had a rapport, but she didn’t want more.

The one night I stayed we talked well into the night. She said, “Sex would not be good for the friendship.”  Trying to fall asleep on the couch in her loungeroom, I vainly attempted  to find a way to take that as a positive statement, as a compliment. I would have liked to have at least tried to test out her hypothesis.

With the sun rising, I drove home through peak hour traffic, knowing the friendship was already fading.  The ship wasn’t coming in.


Waking For Her

This must be the hour ships come in:
the hour school boys become paperboys
and take world news to the avenues;
the hour draught-horses paused
along cobbled pathways, ironed away years ago
hearing only the echoes of their fourfold steps
and seeing only the breath of their nostrilled air;
the hours farmers leave homes
stranded above frost-green fields darkened
by the print of black-green gum boots;
the hour the ship comes in.


More Stereo Stories, by various writers, inspired by Dylan songs

Like A Rolling Stone

Just Like A Woman

Most Of The Time

Shelter From The Storm

Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You

Sooner Or Later One Of Us Must Know

Visions of Johanna

Girl From the Red River Shore

Blowin’ In The Wind 




Vin is founding editor of Stereo Stories and director/MC of Stereo Stories In Concert.

By | 2017-05-14T14:12:58+00:00 May 14th, 2017|Acoustic, Singer-songwriters|9 Comments


  1. Luke Davies May 14, 2017 at 7:48 am - Reply

    I did enjoy this story Vin. I can relate to the Tab as I was often on the other side of the window years ago.Also falling for a girl that wasn’t interested on the same level.

    Your poem is good you should make a come back at it.


    • Stereo Stories Admin May 14, 2017 at 9:10 am - Reply

      Thanks Luke. ‘Haven’t set foot in a TAB since way back then. And, of course, we’ve all fallen for someone who’s not quite so keen. The story has a fairly tenuous link to the Dylan song, but no harm in expanding the notion of a Stereo Story, eh? Looking forward to you being in our show in June in Williamstown.

  2. Bruce May 14, 2017 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Thanks for posting your poem and young yearnings under our windscreen wiper, Vin.
    “The hour school boys become paperboys” is really rather good.

    • Stereo Stories Admin May 14, 2017 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      The folly of young yearning. As for school boys becoming paperboys, that’s no longer the case of course. Blokes toss what passes for newspapers these days into front yard as they drive past. Quite a skill.

  3. Chris Phillips May 14, 2017 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Beautiful story of vulnerability common to us all Vin & so tenderly told. Love when a story reminds me that I was young!

    • Stereo Stories Admin May 14, 2017 at 6:01 pm - Reply

      Thanks Chris. Wait until you hear my poem at the Lit Fest concert. Cheers.

  4. msdebbie May 14, 2017 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    I love the poem and story both. Not all that much of a Dylan fan, so definitely kudos to your words Vin :)

    • Stereo Stories Admin May 14, 2017 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      Thanks Debbie, for your comment, and continued support of Stereo Stories. I can understand you being not much of a Dylan fan. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

  5. jd May 15, 2017 at 8:49 pm - Reply


    Fair play to you for putting your feelings out there. Many have regrets about what could have been if only they had been brave enough to take a chance.

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