You have chosen your strapped seat
to sit at – as you put out to sea

with bright paint and long blades –
to be pulled around buoy set points –

then to be steered without tipping
under rare blade clashes and shouts

but always matched to find a balance –
It is only in wished-for millpond conditions

with the most fabulous sunset
and equal drifts of morning stillness

that everything fits and clicks to timings
Enjoy that sweet run of symmetrical effort

A Crew

There is a slight run of resonance
with squared dips of catches –

it quickens with timed recoveries
along those rumbled turns

of leather-collared connections –
so that the forward lean-to-timings

lever everything to leant finishes
and the opening up of your lungs –

and we haven’t even talked
of power with the blade’s bowing –

We can master the cockboat’s turn
through hard rudder tips into the wind –

by finding strength in fixed ways –
by using the entry and exit in unison

Sea Rowing

There – almost baiting us –
ten thousand wind-ripped
waves palpitated on the lake –
but they are merely
breeze-skipping ripples
for us would-be sea fishers
of much bigger catches –

We are required to practice
in such innocuous conditions –
this millpond darkened stew –
before that unknown swell
beyond our harbour wall –
where there are no hard tugs
of a circling gig’s rudder –

but instead sideways drifts
and cuts by undercurrents –
high sea arts to be mastered
in ungenerous conditions –
We will then be willed to shore
by pulls of oars and others’
fears – with salt on our lips
providing a taste of sea rowing

The First Racing Turn

We can start with the basics –
the lifting and full leans on oars –
but before long we will have to dig
and pull at less certain surfaces
out at sea and under the command
of racing rules – those set demands
of distance and clockwise turns
around anchored buoys – whilst
in smacking earshot of others’ boats –
those crews that can pull away –
under almost-mechanical techniques –
those we have to hone – Our finest victory
will be the first finish we achieve –
and then we will know how to row

The Pilot

Stunned by an off-keel tip –
but that was part of the deal
of any such heaved pull
under the pilot’s minimal steer
of his salt-pressed gig crew –

then the high wave-slams of
the clinker-laid hardwood boat
upon the vast ship’s tarred hull –
as if beating upon the pregnant
belly of a dark leviathan

Those men had won the right
to pull alongside – to profit –
to earn their paid return to the
dark harbour’s pints of succour –
but only with the turn of the tide

by half a dozen oars in that boat
timed by a hundred – or more –
counted out from the hefted launch
to that last profitable throw of rope
onto the huge ship of strangers