Towpath poem: Trent and Mersey Canal, Spring 2007

Towpath poem
Elegy for a working man

(Trent and Mersey canal, Spring 2007)

They are changing the colour of the field

across from Rockpits. Blue-cabbed tractor

cutting grass: in the hedge

a cock pheasant is drowned out.


The pleading voices of lambs

are blown this way and that.

Grey heron on the far bank

gets up, but low enough

to almost feather tip

its slow green shadow.

Newness is wearing off ducklings,

no longer mottled smudges,

whirling legs with beak first:


and there are still eight.


Swallows faster than thought, blade height,

stretch perspective, tug vanishing points.

Far off, rooks circle farmyard oaks.

Mallards are flighting overhead.

Canada geese in a bunched clamour

curve their wings to land,

group, graze... spread out.


Someone is fishing off the stern

moored close to where, two summers ago,

the carp rose, tilted, sucked

at the algaed edge, its mailed back

broad as a fox terrier’s.

The big woods throw shapes

through sudden white sun splashes

colouring the cut from the sky.


A black modern narrow boat

with speakers before the slide hatch

spills out a Levellers CD.

The man nods to "One Way of Life,"

feet on the counter, arm on the tiller bar…..

moving into a cave of leaf-overhang

softens paintwork, mutes roses and castles.

Song thrushes and blackbirds seep back,

trees have their say again, and water.


In the lane sorrel, buttercups,

red campion, ox-eye daisy drifts…..

And found, you’re almost sure,

a single fragrant orchid,

yet couldn’t find again.


But you’re content first to wait, quiet

as the year quickens, then

impatient for a rush of meadow vetchling,

convolvulus, hedge woundwort, red dead-nettle,

rosebay and giant willow herb, tufted vetch…..


Shardlow 84, Preston Brook 8:


forget what the mile post said,

standing up like autumn inkcap

In the warm early evening,

while you on the towpath,

360 degrees, mood swings, gazing,

boots laced up tight, balls of the feet -

wishing to be everywhere at once.

Based on visits to Marbury Country Park

Page created by RL