Caught by the River

Letters From Arcadia

Dexter Petley | 27th August 2008

‘Grape-Shot Of Wrath’


thanks for your retro-blaster, the diamond dogs and one sergeant pepper on a midsummer jig, a doctor hook and the ferrule hound with the latching eyes; deserves its head on a bankstick with two rods between its ears. perch-trained i hope. while you were brewing guy fawkes crumb for fly tipping on your pitch, i was on second watch for the river seine partisans:

barges indiscreet about their cargo:

shorelines riddled with paris plastic from the kitchen window dumps. eight plastic buckets in my swim alone, and more cans of “desperado” than in a marseilles warehouse. bobs past on the barge waves like the biggest duck race in the world, the new vesuvius, the lava of a consumer explosion, chinese pooh-sticks from hell. they have these dustcart boats flying the boulemian flag, plying the seine from paris to the sea, sucking in the sins of manufacturing, the river so binned. but in between the le havre bound containers, goaded by bow-waves that would power that dog’s eyes for life, the runs came. frictional shockers, these carp are the original barge poneys. it must be them pulling smack to port and delivering the pig iron on time. you’re left with a smoking rod in your hand as they get their orders and blow tube 2. fishing like fire-fighting, you’re your own chain gang: run, fight, hand to hand, scorch marks, bucket of maize, cast, barge wash, run, fight…

they mob the margins, vandalise weedbeds, probes for the dustcart deck-hands, hoovering the floor for hours of anarchy. when the fire’s out and the fleet goes after someone else to scupper, the barbel move in and pirate the left over maize like it’s spanish gold and they run like the carp, back-winching after the barges for a hitch up, barbel overboard, they belong at the captain’s table.
since then, like holmes languishing after a case, the dog days blew in on a west wind good for billowing sails but cold draft for a carp. the dog eyes on the buzzers stay off and the blank days turn the diary into shopping lists on scrap paper. oh the dog was there again this week on the town pit; two lost fish and the barometer swinging into the pit of your stomach as you dread the next run because yo know it’ll spit the hook. times like this i think of all those maigret mysteries where he follows the seine bargemen and waits for one to crack in the lock-keepers cafe. i’ll be there when he does, like carp that pass in the night.

as i write this i’ve put the woodstove back in the caravan, hooked up the pipes and lit a sunday fire. caravan smoking like a dirty british coaster, autumn rain, falling leaves in a shivering wind. just lacking the chestnuts. and now the nights are tightening round the moon at nine, the dog’s eyes are gonna light up, and them spools is gonna whine again.

cat’s eye cunningam on the birdtable