Canoeing on the Backwaters, Kerala. Oil on Board

This is the poem I wrote in response to Mark's painting of the gentle scene of 'The Oarsman' on what is the Backwaters in Kerala (a paradise on earth in my view). The painting hangs in my living room which overlooks the River Thames which is often a mass of rowers.

My husband was Indian. I met him 50 years ago as a student and our children are mixed race. It was a difficult time for mixed couples in those days. And hence the theme of my poem, that sometimes a scene of tranquillity is not the case but difficulties can be overcome with joy.

You see want a painting can do!!!!!


- Jacqueline Pitfield

The Oarsmen

His delicate frame rests still
at ease on a floating wooden shaft.
The balancing yard held aloft
stabilizing life’s fragile hand
mirrored in the Backwaters scene.
Not a whisper disturbs, nor ripple stirs
that deceptive tranquility.

He’s turned away, deliberately
avoiding the Thames flowing tide.

Where burley men flex muscles
to and fro, in and out
to the crack of the cox’s pace
their confidence growing
with every stroke
their ambition knows no end.

Row my hardy oarsmen, row
across the dividing seas
let muddy waters mingle
with Asia’s complex hues.

And turn my gentle friend
fear not the changing tide.
Destiny flows in the choppy seas
and fortune meets the enquiring mind.