Swimming Against the Stream


You dreamed of this island and

I wanted to buy you the book

Remember? You said it was too much.


The river sweeps past Hilbre’s rocks

carrying the silt of Berwyn Hills out

into the Celtic sea.



Hilbre from Red Rocks, Hoylake



Kick. Kick and pull

past mudflat and marsh.


Past Shotton, her blast furnaces once

an altar to Baal. Cold now.  Bulldozed rubble.

War grave of an age of iron.

Wanna buy some of the good stuff?

He worked on the night shift, kept the gear in his locker.


The way ahead is clear and my arms stretch and pull.

The river runs straight and true as far as Deva,

and her echoes of the Twentieth Legion.

Within her walls, cower ghosts of Welshmen

hung before dawn and left for all to see,

though the dead know no shame.


Past meadows, hedges and riverside pubs.

A bridge that links and divides.

Two nations, border country, and in my mind

I’m so close to the edge.

But fly-strewn water fills my mouth,

and drowns all possible words.


Llangollen sisters take the air.

The wisteria is so beautiful this year.

Words hang unspoken while

its beauty moves them to tears.


And on this bank you walked and laughed.

Dinas Bran glowers down, as, from the next bed,

the addict demands my shoes.


The stream presses and pulls, squeezes

the air from my lungs. I follow the river,

a golden thread weaving through

Tegid’s cold depths to her source, where

I am sucked into the ground

and spat out into the clouds.


The background to Swimming Against the Stream is that I wanted to write about the River Dee in Wales, as that is a part of the world I know well. But, in following the river from where it enters the sea back to its source, I saw the opportunity to make it a temporal journey as well as a physical one. Moving back through time as well as back to the source of the river; mixing personal memory with historic facts and topographic observations. Later this summer I will be following the 127-mile Dee Way from Hilbre to the source of the Dee.  On foot!

About Bobby Seal

Freelance writer, poet and psychogeographer
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