Eventually we get Dad down into the boat
where he loudly invites all the elderly ladies
to a seat on his lap
‘as the benches are so squashed’.
He is talking too much –
it’s the joy of a captive audience
but he’s been off the boards too long
and needs to rediscover his art.
The boat swivels off in a flourish,
a dark caliper of water widening from his stage
and him spot lit in a column of sun.
He jokes that I will steal the
water spaniel’s muzzle to put on him,
but his words come out jumbled
and all the owner hears is
‘She’s going to steal your dog’.
I look for something to distract him
but the landscape is still and serene.
Just waders stalking the estuary shoreline
prodding and stuttering the mud.
Geese are hawking from distant fields
as a whine of swan’s wings
grinds overhead like some creaking stage
machinery wound with old handles.
And it’s all become part of Dad’s
impromptu vaudeville act.
He’s animated. And as we finally dock,
I’m reluctant to pull him away.
But like an old sly dog, yanking his lead
to snatch at a crimson chicken bone,
he twists out of his collar
and turns back for an encore.