Costa da Morte

by Nancy Campbell

He was surprised to find he’d lived to tell the tale.

Now each spring he heaves his kayak from the shed,

straps it to the roof rack and drives the half-mile

to the canal – digs out a parking permit for the dashboard –

doesn’t forget to lock the car – hoiks the boat down

and lays it on the water, pointing west – pauses for breath –

edges himself carefully in – tucks his spraydeck round the cockpit –

gently pushes off – and becomes a water insect,

going lickety-split up the cut, whirligig arms twirling

his battered paddle, blades scooping and sprinkling

as the bow waves rock from towpath to bank.

His patched sheerline and scratched hull create a wake

as wide as any of those flashy playboats

as if, at this rate, he could conquer time as well as space

and find himself once more on that unholy coast

in nightmare winds, making for Finisterre.