Each evening we upended the canoes.
Capsized on dry land, they were tents -
and did they look the part! The beach
a campsite, muti-coloured. Glorious,
as if the sun was out. But not this night.
This night was different. This last night
we'd planned to paddle out, past where
the River Cuckmere meets two currents and
the tide, where we'd been dunked before,
to pass round Beachy Head and on to East-
bourne to a pub we knew. We'd planned
the week to end as all such weeks should.
I see us like a line of old men stooped,
canoes along our backs, one hand steadying,
the other with the paddle in its grasp.
It seemed a long way to the sea, the moon
a hidden light, and in its turn an iron
spike, rusty, sharp, was hidden from our view.
Protruding from the sands, it found the calf,
the fleshy part, of our instructor's leg.
He drove himself to hospital. Sports car.
Two seater. The only transport near at hand.
and so it was we paddled out, now leaderless,
instructorless - and clueless, truth be known -
to Eastbourne to the A and E, to learn
he'd left and driven back. We'd missed him by
a few strokes of a paddle. Winked at us,
the pub lights did. We hurried by, as if
we were conspirators, as if they knew
our kayaks were not made for crates of beer.
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