Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Rediscovered poetry of canals

Resurrected from storage, having been featured in an exhibition years ago in Sowerby Bridge, the following poems all relate to the canal which features in much of my life.  My flat overlooks the Rochdale Canal, and its sights and sound are regular fixtures in my days. The rediscovery of these poems has been a bittersweet experience, as most were written early in my Calder Valley days, lonely and unhappy times, and yet a period of time much simpler than now, long before our country was wounded by tormenting divisions over Brexit and the current climate of hatred and confusion which characterises this fractured land:

January dusk; 
ducks huddle upon waters
bounced on by a cavalcade of rain.


 My overriding interest was in the wildlife found on and around the canal:

Midnight, and a daggering black shape of wings
like a looming W appears
in shadow over moon-blue water;
seconds later and its brooding form
is overhead, and floating
into tar-black distance.

Herons, which I often see traversing the watery worlds of the canal and the Rivers Calder and Ryburn, would come to dominate my canal poetry, and in one rediscovery I notice the transience and mirage-like manner in which I seem to paint them:

At a distance on this Sunday afternoon,
you're eyebrow-fine in river mist,
cut sharp and almost one-dimensional;

as though your wafer-thinness
were a cloak
a winter pelt,
a wraithlike sillhouette,
a flickered implication.

I note brief, elegiac glimpses of the canal from winter's afternoons:

Frost-fog settles over locks
hinging the horizon like bent birches

and overviews of the canal network as it seemed to me in those early days of close proximity:

Like tunnels burrowed by enterprising gangs
of weasels, voles, or lithe, subsurface predators,
they split and sub-divide, 
a grid of burrowed waterscapes
as if the veins of earth had somehow opened up.

And this, written from my window as the scarlet majesty of a June evening blended into a starlit fantasia of warm summer rain, silvery water, and much sought, rare calm:

Rain subsides,
rain falls,
rain blends on a sky-like surface,
fishes glittering below;
ducks sail gently by.

Evening sun glows gently over the canal.

We are very lucky to live on this beautiful planet.

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