Three Poems by James Bell

three river sonnets

your eyes seek a reason for a wrecked bike
in the river mud before your mind kicks in
while a girl forces laughter at a distance
and only you make this link

there is no other             only you
entertain a lack of order in everything
beyond stone or water or air

to live in the present you decide there must
be blurred borders around it to survive

there is a sense that a past existed
for today to arrive

this is your border of randomness
that needs to be crossed again and again
and again           when the laughter ends


the water before you
how it licks itself            is less
malleable than it first appears
feathers fall from the gull with a lame foot

the supermarket trolley               the bicycle
               are both half sunk in mud
have reached a final resting place
will be sucked under    in time

the gull does a stutter dance
on the one good foot as an acceptance

the sun appears from behind clouds
you watch the transformations take place
say a silent farewell to the gull and go
while trolley and bicycle sink microscopically


it is good to take the long view

you turn away from the wind that stings
your face no matter where you decide to walk
sit and notice how the gulls too have taken
positions close beside you near the old bridge

neither you nor the gulls feel closer
or could ever consider an entente cordiale 

opposite three people clear a boat from river silt

with spades they work in haste while the next tide
creeps in as bidden by the moon           shifts that
could bring floods
                                      the boat looks like an ark
though too small for all pairs to board               you think
maybe a signal to head for higher ground        you speculate
there is still time to indulge in the long view


James Bell is Scottish and now lives in France. He has written and published poetry for twenty years. At present he is at work on his first short story collection.

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