In the poem "Watching for Dolphins" by David Constantine, a group of passengers on a boat bound for mainland Greece stop whatever else they are doing and head out on deck to attempt to sight dolphins swimming in the water. Their destination is Piraeus, which is a port city near Athens on the Greek mainland, and they are in the midst of the Aegean Sea, which lies between Greece and Turkey. Their port of origin might be somewhere in Turkey, or they may be coming from one of the Greek islands such as Mikonos.
Constantine describes a variety of passengers: lovers, an overweight photographer, and children. What all these disparate people have in common is a desire to see dolphins. When they head for the deck, their personal problems and ambitions dissipate as they all engage in scanning the waters. They wonder whether a sighting is more likely if the sea is calm, if it is choppy with waves, or if there are seagulls present.
All of these people are awaiting a transcendent experience, something extraordinary that will take them beyond the usual limits of what they consider normal. The poet compares their fervent waiting to praying. As an explanation of what they are seeking he uses the word "epiphany," which means an illuminating discovery or realization, or the appearance or manifestation of something supernatural. As they wait, they imagine what a dolphin sighting would be like and how everyone will laugh and point out the dolphins leaping out of the water.
However, the boat reaches the port and is surrounded by mundane tankers. No dolphins will venture into the black polluted waters near shore. The passengers disperse and go back to the concerns of their individual lives.
In this poem, Constantine reminds his readers that although we are all different, we all share a desire to glimpse something transcendent and supernatural that lies beyond the world that we normally see. Sometimes our longing remains unrequited and, like the passengers aboard the boat in the poem, we pray and hope to no avail. However, it's good to keep in mind that all of these passengers are hopeful when they go on deck because often dolphins are sighted in the water. If they do not observe dolphins this time, there is always the chance that their hopes will be fulfilled on some future voyage.