Perhaps it’s the floods or the fact that it’s been the wettest winter for 250 years, but I’ve had water on the mind lately. I had a dream about our house floating out to sea, then encountering my younger selves at various stages of my life, and in various houses, rescuing them and bringing them aboard.
I sailed my house across the Atlantic,
a ship of brick, adrift in the doldrums.
From my deck of floorboards, I saw a sail
and met myself coming the other way
twenty years younger piloting my student digs,
the one in Norwich, without hot water
or TV. I was a worrier, still smoking,
typing on my grandfather’s old Amiga.
I was taking on water, had a shark
in the attic, did not know the trouble
I was in or how easily it could be solved.
I threw over a line, welcomed him
aboard, admiring his full head of hair.
Then we found my first house in Leeds:
no less seaworthy, water sloshing
from the inside against the bay window.
We took him in too, rescued from
a purgatory of ad sales, bad food
and Sundays in the launderette.
At night, we watched the ghosts
of other selves pass by, too far out to reach.
Then came my London flat, sitting high
in the water, the shop beneath still trading
in the deep selling fan-belts to mermaids.
I was the boy at the first floor window,
dressed in cords and a Beatles t-shirt.
I told him to use the sofa bed as a life-raft,
and save only our gold pocket watch.
We picked just him up, just as the block
went under, the four of us drifting on, beneath
a waxing moon, floating on the sea of selves.