Caught by the River


Will Burns | 13th September 2023

A poem by Will Burns

That slight sort of boat hired right off the beach.
Flat calm and what – twenty knots?
Up around the headland
to the town dressed up in fortification –
Roman, Ottoman, Venetian.
A run of clear island water,
and then there they were –
three of them, breaching dead ahead.
The Greeks had them down as telegram boys of the gods,
pirates turned coastguards.
But it’s Fred Neil’s deep blues for me.
For you the best bit of Beth Orton’s ‘Best Bit’ –
that sultry slack that gets into your bones
each summer. Languor, looseness.
The slowing up of your senses,
head unfrying itself in the heat.
History in this place lies around like rubble,
littered with cans of Mythos.
Signs and messages and songs –
shanties of the long and not-long dead –
that’s the true ancient lingo we talk here.


Taken from Will’s upcoming collection ‘Natural Burial Ground’, just announced for publication by Corsair in March 2024. Pre-order your copy here (£10.44).

An additional poem from the collection, ‘Off Island’, has been made into a short film, in collaboration with Stone Club. Watch here.