We lie, bellies to the ground, on the towpath
edge – our chins in the dirt, levelling our eyes
to where we do battle. My marleys lined, facing
Rod’s steelys. The loser faces the Cut.

The next day we’re marauders, casting our nets
into scummy waters, weighing up the plunder.
What yow got there? – a rusted spoke, a button blank,
all sorts of tranklements – to bring back, to bargain.

On weekends we go exploring, down the towpath
and through the tunnel, to where the Cut swells out
to a basin. It’s calmer here. The water is clearer.
Here we hunt for fish, for dace and jack-bannocks,

idle enough to pluck from the surface. It was here
that we found the tropical fish – a fairground prize
tipped from their tank. We fed them every Saturday.
I never told my mother where the breadcrumbs went.

Elinor Cole

Poet for June





– marbles

steelys – steel ball bearings

the Cut – the canal

tranklements – objects, belongings

jack-bannocks – stickleback, small fish


3 thoughts on “Smugglers

  1. Les Derbyshire says:

    Nice piece thank you, Elinor. Compelling reading, imaginative use of language and nicely threaded together. I love ‘tranklements’!
    I look forward to reading more from you.


    • Elinor Cole says:

      Thank you! The Black Country dialect is full of little treasures, I’d love to find a way to use more but for now, these seemed the most appropriate!


Comments are closed.