Angling For Narrow Boats

October 4, 2018

In celebration of World Poetry Day, we’d like to share Brendan Hawthorne’s poem ‘Angling For Narrow Boats’ with you, which will be published in ‘Tipton Tales’- a book of newly commissioned poetry focusing on the Sandwell town of Tipton.


Angling For Narrow Boats

Floats bob on lazy eddies

piercing meniscal surface tension

now clear from past pollutions

and any toxins held in suspension


See the master carp weave a slalom

through the waters of a clear mainline

where Caggy’s yard repaired holed hulls

bored by the corrosive metal moths of time


We are free of the clatter and the clang

Of metal being hammered and drop forged

Yet still we hear them through the memories

of when once varied industries engorged


their way through what lay beneath

this blackened Carboniferous earth

Millennia of life that died for gain

and once spent left behind this dearth


But past glory survives in the eyes

of a people oh so proud

Grit still flows in their veins from

industry’s primal scream out loud!


We bought our music from Owen Street

Dark Side of the Moon to Planet Gong

A bed rock sequence of foundations

on which to measure our lives along


In plain view of the cooling towers

and Bolton Court’s windows in the sky

that passively saw nothing

But recorded everything passing by


The coal trucks that flicked up bricks

and slaughter wagons that held a cry

And the cranes of post industrialism

that often went rolling by


The cargo trains of a nation

over the years they came and went

Rumbled the ground beneath our feet

so many could pay their rent


And the canals gave way in time

to the benefits of road and rail

When hours were measured in pounds

and cheap labour was up for sale


And now the silence shatters a past

that built a world from the sweat on its back

No more chemical outfalls

or umbered sunrises veiled by chimney stacks


And floats still bob on lazy eddies

Waiting for a piscine attack

Large scale industry may be finished

But the boats are coming back

Listen. You can hear the shift

The boats are coming back


Brendan Hawthorne

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