Tim Relf: a poem


Brave

I once got on a bus in Woodstock, New Brunswick, and rode for two days solid south

to Atlanta, Georgia.

It's a go-to story when I'm feeling old or mortgage-stressed or fretting, say, about

the evening train.

Not the New Jersey Turnpike again, my wife will say.

Not Columbus Avenue.

Not the midnight slice of blueberry pie.

Humour me, I'll say, and she will, aware that even the word "Greyhound" can lift me.

What I'm remembering, of course –

when I refer to the 95 or Kennebunkport or The Carolinas,

when I talk of pine woods and white churches –

is the version shaped by my own telling: the story within the story.

It's the usual thing:

a bus barrelling down a snow-sided road,

winter-lit town names echoing home:

1,500 miles of Eastern Seaboard.

There's a part I don't recount, though.

It's the story within the story within the story

of a boy

swapping sides on a bus so he can better see a river.

It's early on,

before he's even left New Brunswick,

when he presses his face to the glass because the name of that river makes him want to touch

all that's beyond:

the land, he'd later learn, of the Maliseet.

Today, queuing in a supermarket in Corby, I say the word out loud:

Meduxnekeag.



Tim Relf's work has appeared in The Rialto, Ink Sweat & Tears and is forthcoming in The Friday Poem. He was also longlisted in the Plough Poetry Prize 2021. Meanwhile, his most recent novel was published by Penguin.