Channelled

by Jo Bell

A two-kingfisher day, with sparrowhawks thrown in
and we were bickering at Kingswood Junction.
Water won’t be told, she said, you never learn.
We settled to the first of nineteen locks.

It got between us with its own built frame;
its greening beams that spoke
an older argument, the slow negotiations
of meadowsweet and pondweed.

The ratchet sound of summer winding in;
the bargain between land and man and water
that earns the right to pass. A can’t-be-hurried
spill of rising inches in the filling chamber,

a measured fall through moss and diesel smoke.
We did not speak until the aqueduct where,
running out of land, the navvies
simply kept on cutting through the sky.

Carry me, the channel says: the bridegroom engineer
must find a way. They never learned to disbelieve.
Water won’t be told, but give it bones
and it will take the shape you train it to.

That iron rib, grown out across the cavity of air and traffic
took us over, laughing. We made our reckoning
and moved on slow as marriage, slow as decades
through a day of gentle sweat, a two-kingfisher day.