Poem, Poetry

Mike Farren

Towpath
(for Tom)

He is cycling down a canal towpath
late. Always late – limbs appearing to push
in contradictory directions but
he’s fast – until he sees me and either

stops for a brief and breathless greeting or
hails me, without breaking his staccato
rhythm, in a voice I half expect to
doppler as he passes. He is wearing

a work suit with narrow tie and a shirt
whose tail has unmoored itself with the strain.
The towpath takes a day to turn from mud
to dust and fifteen minutes back to mud:

whatever the weather brings will cling to him
through the day as he speaks patiently to
small children and thinks about rain, falling
and ruin. Later, he will shrug off as

much of the day as he can, wear the dark
blue jumper over coat-hanger shoulders
so that it falls as if empty, climb up
to the woods, with the dog who has to learn

about gravity for the first time each
time he meets it. At last, he will return
to her, in the house where they had ship-wrecked
themselves and they will not need text-speak. One

day, there will be a different city –
perhaps even a different canal.
He will worry about whether horses
will actually be there for his own child,

while I will still be walking down the same
old towpath, trying to work out how life –
how friendship and poetry – whistled by
so fast.



Mike Farren has authored two pamphlets: Pierrot and his Mother (Templar) and All of the Moons (Yaffle). He won the Saltaire Festival and the Ilkley Literature Festival Walter Swan poetry prizes (both 2020), and was Poem of the North ‘canto’ winner (2018). His poems appear widely in journals and anthologies.

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