Caught by the River


Joe Devlin | 5th April 2019

A short story by Joe Devlin. With illustrations by David Mackintosh.

Freshly cut, close to the collar, pumpkin orange discs, of assorted sizes and varying heights, dot the forest edge, providing a perfect marriage with the unbroken luminous blue overhead. Complementary colours framed by our carriage window as we pull in. This section, an all-day peregrination over two counties.

Your index finger moves slowly along the green dotted line, carefully tracing it, intermittently looking up to survey what is in front of us, digit fixed at the point last studied, before returning to consult the clasped map, flipping it to examine the reverse. The route we are to follow in your palms. The course agreed, you collapse it back into its covers, following the dividing creases, the valley and mountain folds.

We proceed through the trees. Scattered curled shavings and sawdust intermingle with the twisted cornflake philomot on the floor, a confetti-strewn carpet after the party. Each ellipse a particular colour, ranging from rusts and ambers, on to muted ginger and rich honey. Every ring tells a story, the rainy years and dry seasons, periods of light starvation and tilts in growth.

These concentric circles, emanating from the centred pith and dark heart, through to the outer sapwood, trigger associations, the ring as a symbol, of Gyges, of lines burnt into driftwood, deep ingrained vinyl memories, circular walks, yellowed codices and Thoreau contracting bronchitis while on one of his late night drenched dendrochronology excursions. Of time itself growing old. Emerging, we move towards the path that leads over the boundary.


Content to Gather is the first collaborative project between Joe Devlin and David Mackintosh. It takes the form of a book published by Aye-Aye Books with writing from Devlin, drawings by Mackintosh and an afterword by Martin Holman. Limited to 500 copies. Design by Daren Newman. Priced at £10. Buy a copy here.