The Wherryman’s Return

Once I was lost in Norfolk mist
that dims the view of wherrymen,
grips you like a watery fist
and pulls you further to the fen.

I left her at the cottage door,
waving with her handkerchief;
it was the very last time she saw
me, my darling widowed wife.

But I still wander past the window,
dripping water from the fen,
cloaked in mist and weeping willow,
to catch a glimpse of her again.

I don’t know if she feels my presence,
I can only hope and pray;
until she does my evanescence
takes me from her every day.

I watch her sobbing in the kitchen
and follow her to the cemetery,
where she cleans the moss and lichen
from a stone beneath the willow tree.

But her loss is only momentary;
I know one day she will follow me.

Kim M. Russell, 4th May 2021

P. H. Emerson. A Misty Morning at Norwich, about 1890, found on nationalgalleries.org

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Poetics: Exploring Narrative Voice

Ingrid is our guest host for this week’s Poetics, and she would like us to explore the role of narrative voice in poetry, not simply poet-as-narrator, but poet-as-creator of a fictional character with a strong narrative voice.

Ingrid reminds us of poets throughout literary history who have explored fictional narrative voice, such as Chaucer, with the examples of the Wife of Bath from the Canterbury Tales and Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. She also mentions ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning and Stevie Smith’s ‘The River God’.

56 thoughts on “The Wherryman’s Return

  1. Oh this is incredibly heart-stirring, Kim! I love the intricacies here especially; “dripping water from the fen,
    cloaked in mist and weeping willow, to catch a glimpse of her again,” .. it sets such an elegant backdrop as we, the readers, delve deeper into the story. 💝💝

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sanaa. Wherryman worked on the Norfolk Broads for many years, firstly transporting reeds and other materials from one Broadland village to another, and to Norwich, in their wherries, boats with huge sails, and latterly taking Victorians on their holidays on the water. As I’ve said previously, there are probably a few who still haunt this area.

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    1. Now I’m blushing. I will try to find a home for it,, Marilyn. I have a small collection of poems about characters like the wherryman.

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  2. Kim,
    What a lovely evocation of this forlorn ghost, especially this line,”But I still wander past the window,
    dripping water from the fen,” I could almost see him.
    ~🕊Dora

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I tried to use a rhyme scheme with my poem, but it cried out to be prose, a narrative equal parts fact and fiction. Your spirit character is a touch of Poe, a pinch pf Emily Dickinson–yet another narrative with a classic feel to it. A lot of us chose that route it seems.

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    1. Thank you, Grace. I’ve seen old photographs of wherrymen and their families. Their wives and children often helped them on the wherries, mostly during the tourist season when Victorian ladies and gentlemen visited the Norfolk Broads.

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  4. “But I still wander past the window,
    dripping water from the fen,”

    Oh how poignant! You’ve given this ghost much depth and well, life, with your beautifully haunting words, Kim. I can picture him, a specter always just out one’s peripheral, a general feel of melancholy that overcomes you when you pass where as he awaits his beloved.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You have created such a sad, gentle and patient ghost. The rhythm took me along as if I was slowly travelling on the fens, lost in the ‘watery fist.’ Lovely poem.

    Liked by 1 person

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