Last Saturday, I went on a workshop with the Canal Laureate, Jo Bell, about whom you can read more here.
We spent some time talking about detail – using specific canal-furniture names (boats, bridges, places) in writing – and then moved on to ‘becoming’ various combinations of watery figures. Myself and another writer became a poet and a jogger – both of whom were horrible people. But hey – they’re often more fun to write as (maybe).
Another boat-related idea had been flitting around in my head, which I’ve just had another go at. Having not been sure how to approach the topic, I epiphed (all over the place) on the way home.
It was some speed-writing (thanks Natalie Goldberg, for the encouragement – from a book nearly as old as me – ‘Writing Down the Bones’) generated an image – so I went with it…
My friend, like so many,
fears them intensely,
so when she asks me,
a glimmer of hope:
“Are you safe from them
on boats?” I’m obliged to say
For never before have I existed
so closely alongside them. Shipmates.
Brushing my teeth in the morning, in the
lower-right corner of the window,
in one swings with a toothless grin –
its rope dewed with the white
frothy grog that is splashed
from my chin.
Attracted by the dusky glint
of our black-gold chimneys,
they hoist ragged sails there which –
gaping in the trading winds –
display the body-parts of victims.
At night, they are not as sociable as
popular images would have us think.
Don’t gather together to eat or drink
their pillaged bounty; engage in a customary
they loiter under gunwhales,
bristle between the welds of steel,
biding their dark-clad time. (Though
on the vacant ship next-moor
they’ve moved in – squatting – on a riot
of their crystalline rigging.)
So my friend says, “Oh Gina G!
I had thought you might be safe at sea.”
But no, for ours is the realm of the
Pirate: their map and their maws;
their plots and their prey;
their own many-cutlassed laws.