God’s promise to the boater

by Jo Bell

It won’t be easy and it won’t be beautiful, not always –
but in every circumstance, all kinds of bedrock,
at every gravel-shallowed hull-crunch bend,
by every stone-dead wharf
          you shall have water.

In every stickleback-and-barbel-thickened pound,
through every bridge (the Bath stone ashlar voussoirs,
rusticated lime or broke-backed brick)
at each and every pub and poached field end
          you shall have water.

Keeping company with towpaths on the ragged Trent,
with chimneyed yards in Stoke or Huddersfield,
with cow parsley and council golf courses that look elsewhere;
everywhere you pass, so long as you agree to pass
          you shall have water.

Don’t look for guarantees of quality or colour –
I don’t do miracles on brownfield sites – but whether
clean, curmudgeonly, open to the elderflowers
or close as a Yorkshireman’s pocket
          you shall have water.

This, my slipshod covenant: keep faith
with fickleness and movement, and
where you travel I will make it so.
Do not look for constancy. Your blessings
          will be writ in water, always, where you go.