The Leeds and Liverpool Canal, constructed in the early 19th Century, runs across the Pennines to join the two cities: one coastal, and one in landlocked Yorkshire. It is 204km – or 127 miles – in length.
The milestones led west, and like a pin slipped
through the city’s fringe, straight beyond sight,
still warm with sky amid the darkening docks.
On the outer bank water stood in rained pools,
similarly bright. It was a thing to watch, in their
fast lessening light, the bicycles chained in line
all battered by the wind, puddles’ slow retreat,
gathering cloud. And yet like a dangerous path
the water drew the eye, far out, north-to-west
through the tall flats, braiding the Aire, turning
often, wending the cut earth. Though no ships
came by this time from other ports, it was still
possible to see there, lit by dusk, the ungraven
image of what was immigrant here: night sky in
water, each ineluctable wave. Nothing arriving
otherwise but the swell thought of having been
and going, anchoring upwards, listing, listening,
aground. Somewhere in the unseen sea swayed
tomorrow’s tide. I crossed onto the nearer side,
cut a different path across parked grass toward
where King Street led into East Parade, and the
rest of the city, lighted and large. In the traffic’s
flood and the barge of cars, an outlandish hush
arrived in faith. Sat to dinner. Bowed. Said grace.
by Theophilus Kwek
First published in Singapore Poetry.
Born in 1994, Theophilus began writing while a student in Raffles Institution and was a member of the Creative Arts Programme, to which he returned as a Councillor in 2011. His first collection, They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue, was released in that year, and he was Commended at the Foyle Young Poets’ Award in 2010 and 2011. His poems have been published in the Mascara Literary Review, the Asiatic Journal, and Cha, among other periodicals, and translated into French for la Traductiere. He was the youngest featured poet at the Singapore Writers’ Festival in 2012. His second collection, Circle Line, was released in 2013. Theophilus currently studies History and Politics at Oxford University.