David Lewis Paget
The Boating Park - Poem by David Lewis Paget
It’s thirty years since I travelled back
To wander my childhood home,
To check out the trees I used to climb
And the fields where I used to roam,
I remembered the friends that used to play,
Wendy and Paul and Mark,
And the local bully that had his way
Back then, in the Boating Park.
We’d go up there on a Sunday, pay
Our money and hire a boat,
That fourpence each to the gatekeeper
Saw the three of us afloat,
Each boat had paddlewheels either side
You could turn, and stop or start,
Or spin around in a circle, just
For fun, at the Boating Park.
The Park, laid out in a rectangle
Took an hour to paddle round,
Once out of sight of the gatekeeper
The banks would muffle the sound,
We’d scream and shriek and laugh and beam
As we rammed each other’s boats,
I often thought it a wonder that
We didn’t puncture the floats.
Then over beyond the halfway mark
We lay in the shade of trees,
The sun would sink, it was getting dark
And we’d hear the murmur of bees,
We had to pass there under a bridge
And duck, for the bridge was low,
And that’s where the bully McPherson stood
On the bridge, those years ago.
He’d jeer, throw stones and catcall as we
Tried to get under the span,
Then climb and drop into Wendy’s boat
He wouldn’t have tried with a man.
He’d paddle over the further side
And make her get out of the boat,
Then paddle it back the way we came
Get out, and leave it afloat.
One Sunday I sat under the bridge
With Paul and Mark beside,
While Wendy came along on her own
As if on a solo ride,
The bully tried the very same thing
But we each pulled on his coat,
And when he came up, he couldn’t scream
For the water lodged in his throat.
He splashed about and he tried to grab
The boat, but his clothes, like lead,
Were trying to drag him down, while Paul
And Mark, they stood on his head.
Wendy had clambered up on the bank
Controlled, and well in command,
For every time he tried to get out,
She’d stamp and stomp on his hand.
The paper said it was very strange
That he must have put up a fight,
But hadn’t the strength to pull himself
Up out of the cut that night.
His hands and fingers were shredded, where
He’d tried to climb up the bank,
But the weight of his heavy, sodden clothes
Were the demons he had to thank.
I went to visit the Boating Park
It was just the way I feared,
I met up there with an older Mark,
A man with a greying beard,
He told me Wendy and Paul were dead
Weighed down with a sense of sin,
And the gatekeeper at the Boating Park
Had gone, when they filled it in.
30 September 2013
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