Caught by the River

Dry Dock: a poem by Daniel Bennett

4th August 2018

An inlet along that ragged creek.
Hemlock beading in hedges,
cow parsley, elderflower, the lump of summer

thick in our throats; the tones
of water drawn out over mud
where we tried paddling once

when you were very young, and found
an oiled impasto of squelchy green
mixing with rust, petrol, pig iron, steel.

Those areas along the bitten coast
were alighting points
to different levels of nowhere,

gnarly scraps of pooled waste,
a litter of fuel canisters and sordid plastic,
rusted shotgun pellets, fishing tackle.

We came across the dry dock
beyond a place renting stretch limousines,
which said much about someone’s priorities.

The boats lay stacked above us in rows,
emblems of disaster, orderly markers
of a great flood, long since passed.

Sloops and cutters, the pleasure craft
we’d watch making serene chaos
as they slid down our local channel.

On a landing sloped towards the water,
we found a boat pulled up for works
a water line blurred against its blue paint,

a dandelion-yellow cabin, flowers daubed
around the portals, an island even on land
and later I’d feel we’d found our place

in that soupy geography of your childhood,
despite landing here by accident.
And although some nights I still wake

imagining I’ve left you alone
by the edge of those incongruous waters
to make your own way home,

I’d like to place the memory of this day
carefully into your mind,
a seed pushed deep into the earth.


Taken from Daniel’s first collection, West South North, North South East, which will be published next year by The High Window.

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