Flow and Ebb

by Chris Collins

On the narrowboat in England,
I measured every drop
We timed our teeth
Just a dash –
Quick rinse
Fluid flash
Then stop.

Every drop poured off
Like blood drained.
And conservative cleaning: wincing
At each ticking drip –
At each plughole puddle
In visions of floods and flows
And eddy swirls

We’d watch the boat unbalance –
Thrust its nose in the air,
Disdain the third week – on edge,
Our ears strained to pipes –
Cringing at every mouthful
Kettle full, pan full
Sink full, shower full,
Tank full:
Not full.

Then the stately, slow, narrow movement
One hundred metres over water
To the little black canal tap
To gloriously take back
From infinite water.

We fill the tank in gushes –
All the bottles; every cup
Tides overflowing
Wantonly scrubbing
Metal and windows with the tap left running;
Drench the roof in rivulets
Trickling off the gunwhales
Soaking jeans sodden
In the hot-day water fight.

Then heavily back.
No more unbearable lightness,
And I lie flat
To ladle up
Bucketful after bucketful
Of green canal water
To douse the plants.

Here, when it’s hot
I can have two showers.
Clean the slinks liberally;
Run the dishwasher
And endless rounds of laundry
Drying in the sun.

Summer sun all winter
No damp to steep your lungs
With moist wallow.
Then the sun beat through spring
Sizzling through grass, and burning skin
And the hills look browner.
Now dams
Are low, and we comb the land
For miles to wring a drop out.
Trees cough dry throated
Then kindle: ignite
While I water my plants
With water needed for the fire fight.
And creeks and rivers stand like empty drains
Still – no rain, no rain.

Now I approach my tap with that cringe again.

Chris Collins is a Morris dancing, shanty singing, narrowboating English teacher who writes. Her poems and stories have been published by Cephalopress, Animal Heart Press, Twist in Time Literary Magazine, Mookychick, Enchanted Conversation, Three Drops From a Cauldron and Between These Shores Annual.