Flaming June

by Alan Buckley

but this is a winter spate. Our forty-footer’s
hurried down the Thames from Swinford reach.
At King’s we steer to the lock, then slide into
its chamber, moonishly still, a semi-colon;
the keeper sets his back to the balance beam,
captures us in a pause of cropped grass,
flowers bedded in squares. Behind a screen
of trees, the feral river charges the weir

then bursts back into view, dark and foaming.
It surges hard, pummels the lower gates.
The man strolls past us, a limited god
in short sleeves, sturdy trousers. You’ll need
to give it some. Keep both hands on the tiller.
He spins the sluice-wheels. Gently, we descend.