St Swithin’s Day. The weir’s a fingernail
at the utmost reach of salty water.
The hum of balsamed bees is matched
by the buzzing of municipal machinery.
Rings of ripples alter a mirrored skyscape
like some cheap effect on childhood telly,
and now there are bubbles bursting, the shifting
of chevrons disturbing upturned summer clouds,
a glimpse of something like a small sharp sail…
grey mullet move in groups through shallow water,
broad heads down, nosing the riverbed mud
with clown-lipped faces, their blunt bodies
cross-hatched with unsubtle scales in dullish pewter,
dark fins fringed with paler grey,
pale tails edged with darker grey.
It’s only when one, caught in high July sun,
flips briskly, that there’s a flash, too quick
to be fully real, of underbelly silver.
By Mark Totterdell
Shortlisted for the Poems Please Me Prize 2014
Illustrated by Marion Elder