Another take on Keats. How did he cross the river? How did he reach Arch Brook, Larch Brook, the Combe in Teignhead? There was no bridge to ease the passage in Keats’ time so you could ford the river at low tide or ….. take the ferry. How lives cross! In this poem Deborah Harvey aligns those lives, the poet and that boatman though they’ll never share a jar. Thanks to Deborah for letting me share this poem.
The Poet And The Boatman
Tidal here and salt
the final turn of Teign
before its fretful merging with the sea
creates a harbour in the lee of land,
this curved blood-coloured beach.
Through mist that lifts like linen wraiths
I glimpse the poet stripping off
his white ballooning shirt and britches,
bathing in a manner
far from gentlemanly
the water’s cold, he’ll catch a chill
while over here a boatman’s sanding smooth
a newly mended hull.
He’ll check the caulk is watertight
before he ventures out to rescue souls
condemned to airless death.
Both men are bright-faced,
close in age,
yet they’ll never share a jar
for by the time the boatman’s posted here,
John Keats is twelve years dead.
no one could have saved the poet
from drowning in his blood
Instead the boatman heads for breakfast,
and John is gone with a flap of his red-stained shirt
to flirt with the sleep-soft girls
stirring in their beds
above the bonnet shop.
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