Jane Routh

Five Poems

Franklin, in retrospect


If he’d not kept to orders written by men
who knew the Arctic as a drawing assembled
on theory, guesswork and vested interest,

if there hadn’t been that run of harsh winters
(or they’d not been beguiled by softer ones
into thinking they knew how ice behaved),

if the food cans had not been sealed with lead,
or if he’d not suffered from what he called
‘influenza’ those months before embarkation,

if he’d not been over-wrought by accusation
of ‘petticoat government’ – even if he’d not married
Lady Jane – that is, if Eleanor had lived

or he’d bought that estate in the country…
O hindsight: how we can pull on any thread
we fancy and make history unravel

as if some small accident of circumstance
were all that drove disasters. Of course not.
I tell you he was simply a man of his time.






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