Welling, Bexley, Bexley Heath,
the train prattled through darkness,
Barnehurst, Dartmoor, Gravesend*.
My father followed as six children
flushed about the platform, avoiding
the wind-driven North Sea drizzle.
He purchased fish-and-chips, scrounging
shillings to warm us. I peered
over the newsprint’s steaming edge.
We pirated the Tillbury ferry, slopped
across the mouth of the Thames
where channel buoys rang salty chimes.
Inside, my father slumped, back braced against
the steel prow, against the waves’ weight
sloshing down the outside of the hull,
cold comfort for a man shepherding six children.
We broached the far shore and simply,
the way we came, returned.
*Towns along The Thames.