Springtime at the boatyard by Jo Bell

This month’s poem came into my hands on World Book Night. As part of the celebrations we were giving away copies of Jo Bell’s wonderful collection Kith through work and I’ve been tucking into it all week.

I start my working week by leading a Shared Reading session. Group members of all ages and walks of life come together to share a story and a poem, everything is read aloud and we take the time to talk about the literature, not in an academic sense, but through personal connections – what does it make us feel, what does it remind us of. Since January we’ve been reading Carys Bray’s A Song for Issy Bradley, a desperately sad story about a Mormon family as they struggle to process the death of a child. It’s been rather tough going so I’ve been trying to balance the emotional roller coaster with an uplifting poem to finish off our mornings reading together.

When I began flicking through Jo Bell’s collection so many of the titles caught my eye – Cuntstruck for instance certainly made me stop in my tracks for a moment – but I plumped for Excavation. Reaching into the past, digging up the relics of history in an effort to connect with and understand our ancestors – I’d just finished Sapiens and this poem screamed up at me from the page, but I realised that it also chimed with Issy Bradley – trying to speak to the dead, to find answers, perhaps unsuccessfully. It gave us so much to talk about in the group, not least about the debris of our own lives which might someday write our stories.

Since then I’ve been dipping in and out of Kith, and with the sudden sunburst of spring days somehow already burnt out, I looked for signs of spring among the pages instead – I found it in the boatyard.

Springtime at the boatyard

You can keep your cuckoos.
We hear Spring’s first song
in the sound of angle-grinders,
brazen as a mating call across the yard:
the saw blades and the welders,
working between weathers
like a nesting bird; and swarf
as bright as daffodils on workshop floors.

You can keep your catkins;
we have rust like pollen on our skins.
We walk between steel shells
and smell the fresh blue boiler suits
of all the coming days,
when warmth will stretch our hulls
and make of summer evenings a shed
for building this year’s stories.

by Jo Bell

Originally published on The Poetry Society.

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