By Angela Hayward
Each time, the same walk along the wooded path, the same water shining white through the trees, the same parting of leaves, the same boat waiting, tied to a branch. He steps in, lightly as a wading bird, lifts and cradles the oar, while I let go the mooring rope, let it fall back with a splash.
Then, we're drifting, free. I face forwards, he stands tall behind me. And each time, the same journey takes us down the course of the river, under arching trees, carries us past banks of cropped grass where cows rest, elbows us around bends, shallow- shored or undercut, eases us over pebbles, parts
the combed-out weeds. Then, each time, the same clouds, the same chill, the same sudden rain pecking at the surface, large drops swallowed into the river. Until we come to a gorge, steep cliffs squeezing the water, rolling it, twisting it into ropes that pull our boat along so fast. And each time, the same,
he stands firm, and oh, the "oh!" that rises from his throat, like a bird breaking free. And now the watery sunlight flattens the river, and it settles like a sheet shaken onto a bed, calm on the underswell from the sea. The horizon yawns, stretching wide. The last notes fade, and waves rake the shingle in applause.