This poem was written in response to the story ‘Ferry me Softly’ from Canterbury Tales on a Cockcrow Morning by Maggie Harris. It was read as part of the 7 Tales, 7 Poems, 7 Days and Nights events at the Canterbury Festival 2012. Read the poem below. or download The River Stour Luigi Marchini as a pdf
The River Stour
Its source is some place near Lenham they say
but the boatman states Canterbury is its home,
this city that marks the crossing of 4 Roman roads.
Sarah holds her baby tight; a gust rides the river,
she muffles a cry as they pass under Kings Bridge
and remembers the last time she was here...
Sarah had sat with her mum, grabbing onto
her arm firmly as she skimmed
the water for flamingos and crocodiles.
She was happy then.
The boatman says something
but Sarah doesn’t hear
because she is still with her mum,
They float past a house to the left
black where a door should be
and, on the right, a giant tree which
clackles in the breeze;
a fetor like that of old rubbish
rises from the river,
merging with branches
of time that belong to the tree
and the memories hidden in the dark
of her old family home.
As they get off, Sarah kisses
her sleeping daughter.
A different boatman now stares at her bald head
as if that’s all that’s wrong. He doesn’t know
that Sarah catches her daughter’s scent
in the wind as they float past the new housing complex
where her home once was nor that Sarah is wondering
how many Roman families died whilst
fording the river, building Watling Street.
As the wind blows stronger, Sarah senses
her daughter’s soul sift through the hole
in her coat pocket as if it were silt
and she watches as it skims the water;
feeling even emptier
she blows a kiss after it.