Connswater short poem

Our river wasn’t
a clean river,
a mountain stream, a babbling brook, or a silver girl.
It was a filthy river, a city river, forsaken, neglected.
Long gone, the glory days,
when it was thick with trout
and where, according to my father, King Billy watered his horses
on his way to the Boyne;
and later barges sailed
up and down, laden with
flax and jute, rope and linen.
As boys we played there,
we built bridges from
rusting bikes and shopping trolleys, and wooden palettes,
and plastic bread trays
stolen from the Sunblest bakery. We sailed boats
made from waxed paper,
always keeping an eye open
for rats, as big as cats,
whose jaws would lock
when they bit your leg,
and you’d have to kill them
to get them off.
Once we tried to trace
it’s source, where it bubbled clean and pure
from the Castlereagh hills, but we lost it
under a housing estate
and couldn’t find it
on the other side.
Brimming with youthful optimism we went there to fish
in it’s black waters,
thick and slick with oil,
with nylon fishing nets on bamboo poles, brought back from
a Sunday school trip to Ballywalter;
and once, I caught a fish.
A sprick, my father said,
that’s what it was called.
I brought it home
in a jam jar, with a string handle, and put it clean water.
Two days later it was dead. Spricks don’t like clean water.

This poem is part of the Poetry Book Black Eyed Peace

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david atkinson

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Irish poet, who spent his early years in Belfast and now lives in Coleraine with his wife and 2 children. His first collection "Thomas" was published by Lapwing in 2005, and his second collection "Black Eyed Peace" has just been published. It is available as either a free eBook or in traditional printed format. His work has been widely published in magazines, anthologies, and on-line. His work has also been broadcast and published by the BBC and a number of his poems have achieved competition success. He has been involved with the Ballymoney Writers for over 15 years and has edited and published 3 collections of their work.
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