Never Been

I was in love just the once,
and it was in a punt:
never been in a punt before,
never been in one since.

The river was patched with light,
trees straining to snag
the sun on their oily branches.
Surface was bottle green,
settled with elderly petals, leaves.

Her face was as pale as milk,
fair hair straight, long:
it was the way those days,
something from a song.

No good: can't remember poling,
can't tell you how currents are parried,
none of the technicals.
The day was a glide.

I was nineteen. The river's
dark daguerrotype,
scent of the river, and foliage
seem thick now, now.

Love descends the spine
like a midget on a rope,
crimpons at the ready.
Each chisel a hit.

I'm married now, two children.
We live on a road, good.
But I've left myself
wedged in my teens like weeds:

after rivers, surface, glide,
it's all anti-climax,
and no-one knows
how deep is dark water.

I was in love, just the once,
and it was in a dumb punt:
never been in a punt before,
never been in one since.



From the book Love Poems