Boating On The Serpentine
By Tim Fletcher
‘The pedalo is paid for so pick one and clamber on.’
They’re lost alone. But together they’re steadied
By robust knots in ropes stiff with weather.
Still, they knock sides. The guttural crunches send
Water up high to spatter and darken
The deck of the jetty.
We board our little boat; its plastic faded-blue
From a thousand afternoons in cloudless heat.
A hand on the hull as it moans. A hand
On an ice-cream cone beginning to glisten.
Our seats too hot just yet, and so we set down slow.
‘Are we happy, chaps?’
Three arrows nocked in a bow.
Three shafts to be loosed along the dark
And docile water. Daddy’s driving legs
Get us off the mark, which I think is fair
As even as a pair we’re lighter and we’re shorter
Our wake, a scratch in to the middle of the mirror
Where we stop and back-pedal to a halt.
And from all around us comes the heat.
The shore sways in the shimmer.
The nape of my neck grows hot and tight
Liquid ice-cream slides and soaks the cone;
Tumbles over knuckles and glues my fingers closed.
Quick licks and lip-lead bites deliver
My teeth from electric cold.
Delicate chocolate crumbles and lands
In my lap, bleeds in to the fibres of my shorts
And sun-spots the earthy gold.
‘We used to do this when I was a boy.’
Way, way back when?
When summers were hotter?
And winters were colder?
And ice-creams were bigger?
We’ve been told before.
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