i.m. Jean Paul.
Who could guess a blinddate dare would
lift me like a wave in Surrey
wash me to the Wolastoquik
where the woods dip to the river?
Old canoe now rocks beneath me
unreal as a waking dream,
all because I kissed a soldier
wore his nylons, ate his chocolate
staunched the wound of loneliness.
War and love split lives like lightning:
sisters weeping at the quayside,
me adrift upon a river,
with a Priest my sole companion
who can translate into English,
gliding up-stream to my husband
with the child hes yet to hold.
Forty thousand brides on cruise ships
twenty thousand cooped-up kids,
waved off on a great adventure
high heels and our home made trousseaus
secret stash of favourite lipstick
snap shots of our mums and dads.
Canada is blue horizons
distances which swallow England;
brides now stand alone on praries
weep for streetlamps, corner shops
feather beds and indoor lavvies
friendly neighbours who will listen
troubles halved and halved again;
most have no-one else to talk to
but the quiet stranger-husband
or the toddler in the cot.
Even on the Aquitania
I felt different from the rest.
Was it part of the attraction
half the thrill of saying yes
knowing I would be the only
white girl on the reservation,
not another no-one, nothing
shuffling in the rush-hour crowd?
Two years since our war-poor wedding -
seventeen seemed old enough if
he was old enough to fight.
Now the terror of my promise
overtakes me on the river,
weeks of travel tell me surely
as the silent brave who paddles -
all is left behind for ever.
How a moment rocks the future:
fingers touching in the darkness
of a smoky crowded dance hall
swept me from home counties life
to a world of smooth-backed rivers
trains and roads dissolved in silence
pine trees pierce the cloud-wide sky.
Canoe, river, dance hall fever
threads between old life and new.
Silver droplets glint the paddle
tree clothed river banks assure me
as canoe prow parts the water
wake of yesterday behind us
all tomorrows lie in mist.
Blind-date, blind-faith, blind-love, blindfold
gliding into the unguessed.
If you've any comment on this poem, Maggie Butt would be pleased to hear from you.