Poem #27 Narrow Boat

Narrow boat
Red and green on black water
motors through Victorian underbelly
of the towns and secret places
of the spaces in between.
We learn balance
how to be rocked to sleep
cook on a swaying stove
slice onions on unsteady surfaces.
We undertake Harecastle:
shock of swans white necks
dip into orange canned soup glow
of that strong iron-tinted water
then pop up just as snow- shine clean.
It makes us laugh.
It is impossible. Ridiculous.
Lovely.
The tunnel hugs us like a corset
drips purple brown stalactites
we scrape along, odd clang and bang
and bump around the bend.
We cannot see the promised light gleam at the end.
We look back. Just darkness. Darkness.
We wear wet weather gear in here
I steer with whisky in my hand.
One night we go too far
must go back to find our mooring.
No wide bulb of basin for manoeuvering
we must use the trick they taught us
when we hired the boat. Tie up
then switch between ahead and back
so that the boat turns like the finger of a clock
sweeping from a quarter past to quarter to
We worry. We could come a cropper here.
We have a long pole to push us from the reeds…
Another boat chugs up. We hail them
‘Is this OK? Is what we’re doing right?’
A smile a wave a call
‘It’s all experimental.
Experimental.
All.’

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About Jan Dean

Poet-in-schools
This entry was posted in A poem a day for April. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Poem #27 Narrow Boat

  1. An enjoyable poem full of interesting detail, I really like the line ‘weI steer with whisky in my hand’.

  2. Simon Marsh says:

    Gorgeous. I have loved waking up to the snuggling / chuckling sound of mother and baby ducklings at ear-on-pillow level, little webbed feet paddling furiously just the other side of the narrow boat bedroom wall. Life on the canal is life as I dream it should be. Slow but sure in all weathers – and some of the most delightful “neighbours” one could find. Yes, yes – “secret places of the spaces in between.” Yes, yes – “experimental all.” And I’m reminded, gratefully, of Kosuke Koyama’s “Three Mile An Hour God”.

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