Caught by the River

Upper Thames Lock Keeper: A poem by Virginia Astley

21st February 2016

Weir, weir pool, lock, and a cottage
with water on three sides
and a fish-pound instead of a cellar

and just upstream an alder tree –
roots half-in, half-out the water –
home of the blue bordered carpet moth.

This is a place of water and sky
where the river’s rising is everything
where the willow coming to drink

lets its chains of leaves dip
and the reed sweet-grass bows in prayer,
where one man whittles his years:

a man who has learnt the water’s rising,
who, on nights the flow increases,
will take his winding handle

and straddling the bridge, wind out his weir
keeping count by kicking stones
from his careful placed line –

sixty-five turns per foot.
And when he returns to bed
the sky above swarming with stars

will picture hot July, as cobnuts are forming,
how he’ll cross the island, watch chub
lazing in the stream.

Virginia will be performing with her daughter Florence at the Caught by the River Social Club on Sunday 28 February. More information/tickets