Capturing the world with Photography, Painting and Drawing

Monday Poetry , Canal Life, By : Ian McMillan

St Mullins Kilkenny on the canal

Ian McMillan
Canal Life

The canal tells you stories
The canal sings you songs
They hang in that space
Between memory and water

Once saw a narrowboat raised up,
Like it was cutting through the air,
Between two grass walls and the road below
Like it was sliding through history,
And a tiny vole swam across the water
So a tiny vole swam through history.

The canal tells you stories
The canal sings you songs

Once saw a man floating belly up in a canal
Like he was in the bath. He shouted
‘This is the life’ as I passed by on a narrowboat;
The sky was reflected in the surface
And we tied up in the places the map never showed us,
The man floating by, making ripples on the surface.

They hang in that space
Between memory and water

Once got waved at by a jogger as I stood gongoozling
On the towpath; her running gave rhythm
To the early afternoon, dog-strollers and kids
Who’d rather be here than sitting in school.
To gongoozle is to stand and watch narrowboats pass
And a canal is a lesson, a water-based school.

The canal tells you stories
The canal sings you songs

St Mullins Kilkenny

Once these canals were information highways
If coal and iron can be information,
And I think they can be. And there are bridges,
Pub gardens, the laughter of children
As they walk by the water; and the canals
Turn us all into curious children.

They hang in that space
Between memory and water

Once is never enough for a canal, I reckon;
You need to go back and see it again,
And sail it again, and smell it again, and
Touch it again; canals run through our veins
Like they stroll through this country
Like blood through our veins.

The canal tells you stories
The canal sings you songs
They hang in that space
Between memory and water

5 responses

  1. I once (20 or so yrs ago) photographed the Shannon river and a canal from this river going East along or through a peat-moore. Wonder where these pictures are taken. And what a great poem! Love it!!!

    June 8, 2015 at 11:37 am

  2. Reblogged this on My Choice.

    June 8, 2015 at 11:49 am

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