Caught by the River

Smoke Rise and Sam’s Place

Will Burns | 24th March 2024

A poem by Will Burns.

House name handwritten in chalk
on an old granite wall.
That troublesome local pink.
Moss on the driveway
and an old Vauxhall Astra, only here it’s an Opel.
Property next door on the esplanade called ‘Europa’.
Left turn, west, towards the harbour hotels.

Morning small beers at Sam’s
in the fish market with salty yellow beans in olive oil.
Small section of streets that smell of fried fat and vinegar.
And the raw stages. The dead. The still live.

My grandmother’s tongue.
Took her fried eggs and ham there every day.
A Portuguese roll. Chilli sauce. Muito quente.
Red mullet fillets for home
and a pound of fresh samphire.

Relief of not understanding a word
that anyone was saying.
A kind of silence in the din
of the early hours – still serving,
though, for the fishermen
and the market stallholders.
Taking off the suds with a knife
when the Super Bock fobbed.

Town’s dead, so they say, or quiet at least.
It’s true there’s plenty of empty space.
All that’s left is for the new age –
marijuana wellness products and expensive yoga gear.
Cycling shops, running shoes that replicate
the sensation of doing it barefoot.
Four or five species, only these days laid out on the ice
and the bass so small now when compared.


Extracted from our March Book of the Month ‘Natural Burial Ground’, which is newly published by Corsair. Buy a copy here (£10.44).