In Birmingham early for a business meeting, I found myself whiling away the time at the Gas Street Basin on the Birmingham and Worcester canal. It had been the haunt of my first canal holiday way back in the seventies. Redeveloped over the years, only the canal remained the same: the same shape, the same water.
Was it really all so long ago? And where were the years in between?
Gas Street Basin
Forty years misplaced.
like the branch that snagged Stuart’s glasses
and casually flipped them slow-motion
into canal-dark water at the last-morning tiller
between here and somewhere else.
Years dissolving inexplicably
as a gentle wake
resolves back into nothing but a ripple
perfecting the tried and tested ruse
of leaving not a trace of our recent passing
for the silent boats that follow.
In harsh shadows ghostly
memories of mooring ropes and narrow bunks
and pubs driven from soft focus
to something they didn’t used to be
trapped perhaps in their own navigation.
Barley wine. Skittles.
Uncertain fragments now wistfully recalled
as the unexpected bequest of an unplanned stroll
spectres on the Gas Street towpath
after all these rapidly accelerating years.