Jane Routh

Five Poems

Franklin, in prospect



Trad. it says on the record sleeve
only a century later, now truth
beyond question. Such enchantment
in the tune. Sometimes I wonder
who paid the piper.

Even the name beguiles:
open, bare-chested to the weather,
then slender and refined.
We would not have taken on so
had he been a Marmaduke or Jones.


(Slender he was not.
Upward of twenty stone
and short with it:
imagine that backside
wedged in a companionway.)

Infighting, backbiting,
class and preferment;
nepotism, economics and politics,
ignorance and theory,
monomania and manipulation:

even if there were a passage, Scoresby pointed out,
so what? – you’d have to overwinter in the ice:
it would still be faster round the Cape.
And safer. But William Scoresby
was a whaler. Of no account.

Question: why so few native people along this coast,
and on the move? Answer: enough food only
for a few and on the move. Question: what happens
when a hundred disembark and weak with hunger?
Answer: how predictable it all looks now.





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