Working Pair

by Jo Bell

I have asked for a poem about love.
The woman I have asked to write this poem
knows nothing about love.

Of boats, she knows a little.
When she tries to write of love
it often looks exactly like a boat; and so

she found herself remembering a rusty day
in Birmingham. From an arm of water known,
and so invisible, to all the city drinkers

came the slow nose of a narrowboat –
Aries, heading for the Old Turn Junction
at an angle made for public pain.

But then behind her, shark-smooth,
slid the snub-nosed Malus
hitched on short lines so that both boats

took the corner in a perfect coupling,
right as knee or elbow. The first
was pushed around the narrow turn:

the second paused, then took the rope
and both moved on. Each line and angle,
each response and strain was halved

and doubled. This is of course
a clumsy metaphor. The woman I asked
to write this poem knows that,

but it is the best way she can find
to show how, moving light or laden,
two bodies could help each other

so that both are more than helpful;
each is needful to the other’s passage.
She cannot write a piece that will explain

the love that I’ve laid down for you, my love
in ramson and in bramble season, through our days
of rush and rest, of hills and homecomings.
I had not known there was a home to come to, till you came.