Coalscar Lake

Night-time throws me back again
to Coalscar Lake – silenced birds,
midges fat as flies, the broken plough
and sunken car, a playground dare,

that first dash across the field of Friesians,
blankness in their eyes, a child-size hole
slashed through barbed-wire, my cousin’s
torn parka, one pasty to share,

felled warning signs,
‘Danger’, ‘No Swimming’, ‘Keep Out’,
the twenty-yard march of thorns,
it hooks our jeans and scores flesh bare

and then the greasy slick of water,
black as the poacher’s shotgun,
coffin black with a lid of green, keep back,
don’t look, there’s something there

the policeman shedding his hat,
a rowing boat, voices cast across the lake,
shadows dripping, dragging it
to shore. The chaplain’s prayer.

First published in Butcher’s Dog