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The Poems: CANAL WALK… | IN THE CRADLE OF THE RIVER AIRE | TITUS STREET | HOPE HILL
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The Saltaire Sentinel 
JOHN NICHOLSON POETRY PRIZE

Entry: IN THE CRADLE OF THE RIVER AIRE by Gaye Gerrard

IN THE CRADLE OF THE RIVER AIRE 
by Gaye Gerrard

All morning we sail through birdsong,
Past ancient woods and flowing fields,
By thistledown chicks and warrior swans,
Guarding their cygnets deep in the reeds.
The air, unusually still,
The water, like polished lead,
Reflects the clouds and fishermen’s scowls,
Along the calm silken road.

We are dawdling - and dreaming,
Whilst on the bank,
Big-chested ladies with bossy walks and
husbands who
Speak only when they are spoken to,
Stride determinedly to overtake,
Mistakenly believing we want to race.
We don’t.
Tyre-screeching traffic  and clanking  trains 
     rattle through
The clamour of life in the valley below.
Its aggressive, competing and  increasing  pace
Begins to impact on our serene state
As we’re sailing
In the cradle of the Aire

Strangely sensitive  to  the bypass sounds,
Along the Leeds Liverpool Canal
To the Five-Rise Locks  drawing us down
T’wards glorious chimneys and mighty mills.
There, with architects and engineers,
Worsted weavers and skilful spinners,
From sweat and steel, steam and stone
A community was born.

We have slipped through few miles by water,
But fifteen decades in my mind,
To a village that always enthrals me,
Calls me again and again.
On my shoulder the touch of a hand,
Soft words  said  in my ear
Others are  with me, travelling secretly.
I am sailing with the ghosts of Saltaire.

 

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