Me and dad sometimes fished a murky stretch of the Brant,

marshalled between levées of belly-high grass and nettles.

Unless you’d pulled one out yourself, you’d never know

the river hid writhing knots of eels in its catshit-coloured waters,

that barely moved as they searched the edges of the fen for

a gradient to follow, still forty pancake miles away from the sea.

It was always hot. Everything was a shade of green, yellow or blue,

and the man at the Royal Oak would swap a netful of live ropes,

with their angry, pinprick eyes, for beer, and a lemonade for the lad.

first published in Message in a Bottle, issue 30, 2016

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