An English Life - Poem by Steven Cooke
It is midnight the Milk train pulls into darnall station
No ordinary passengers here
Steelworkers with their families
Loaded with fishing tackle, sandwiches and maggots
The Fossdyke in Lincolnshire, their destination
The fare Half a crown for happiness
The long walk in the dark
A stairway to heaven in my memory
Dawn on the Foss and a cup of tea,
Fever in the blood, the first eel of the day
Our cane rods lovingly handed down from father to son.
I remember, Pheasants looking for mates
Shrieking their songs of love
Swans begging for scraps
Their majestic white necks, nodding,
A greeting into their kingdom
The mist off the water revealing
Families being together, laughing, enjoying what was free.
For tomorrow the grime returns.
A conversation with a stranger then out of a bag,
The rabbits, sometimes hare, sometimes pheasant.
Onions and carrots, shortly follow
The smell, forever linked with summer
The scent of my childhood
Summers were hotter then
At times I drank the Foss, for I was nature’s child
Being clean was never a priority,
Catching fish was, never killed always returned,
Our Covenant with Nature
For it is the sport that we honour
On the train back, the talk is fish, who caught the biggest,
who caught the most
Sprawled on the seats my five brothers and sister,
all in a heap fast asleep.
Dreaming of floats going under, catching that elusive Tench,
Catching more than my brothers
Small dreams for some, the World to us
A spawning ground for future World champions.
Dawn Breaks once more
And a small unassuming man closes the door,
Off to the Steelworks,
But he must have been a demon in bed to have fathered seven kids
My mother wakes us,
Four in a double bed and one bed wetter
Off to school, Mother off to clean other peoples windows,
a pioneer of her time.
Another show and tell day
The repetitive stories of day trips to Skegness and fun in the Arcade
Always good for top marks
Me, still in my Wellington boots, in the height of summer
Explaining my Fossdyke adventure,
laughs from the teacher, laughs from the kids
Half a crown cooky on the bank side,
how boring, an outcast from crowd
Time moves on
I still go fishing, only this time in competition
Now the audience hangs on every word I say
Hoping to discover my secrets,
But my gift came from the dawns of childhood
Theirs Dawns lost in hot dogs and sea side arcades
Poor I may have been, my education neglected
But I have a Doctorate in nature, for I have seen the dawn
Away from the factories, where the pheasant runs free
And where the swan reins king, I was part of them.
It was here I learned what family was,
To share, my last drink of pop with my neighbour,
A simple life, maybe, but what a life
For I have seen what Constable painted
Lived every word that Wordsworth wrote
Understood the Fragrance of the Flowers
And revelled in the poets dream
I loved every colour, every sound, every scent,
And every fish I ever caught.
Father and mother are gone now,
Never complained about their Station in life,
For they found paradise on the Foss.
They left me the seeds to their heaven
And the key to my happiness
A key forged in a man’s worth
To open up my soul to the beauty
That surrounds us all.
Dawn on the Foss, was my church
My soul was cleansed here
And my heart was shaped here
My memories kept safe here
And the Foss fever still resides here
I will die on some bank side, one day
Rod in hand, and I will be content,
So tight lines my fellow anglers.
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