The Stare

Two creeping canal boats
inch towards each other
in a morning mist.

One carries old women, celebrating silence
and tranquility, dabbed in sun cream,
nestled in white, plastic chairs
tucked to a table garnished
with a spotty teapot and ginger snaps.
No one has spoken since sunrise.

The other chugs Mad Lads in fluorescent t-shirts,
wacky head pieces, synchronised in an alcohol
sway, belching as they go. Their new faces
bright and clean and taut, badly burnt
on broad shoulders. Smoke billows
from their lips, trailing a wealthy
blend of lager and cannabis.

The boats meet each other at a reptilian pace.
The bows approach, the hulls close to a kiss.

The boys pour inside for breakfast
but an elderly gaze captures one.
He stares back, traces the wrinkly contours
of her pallid face, her bundled grey hair
thinned to the scalp.

The music and motor dissipate
in the moment they’re closest.

She clutches the tiller with a frail hand,
her finger weighed by a golden band,
and she shouts as loud as she can
with her sunken eyes

Hold onto it.
Hold onto it for dear life.
Don’t let it go.

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