My father was born in Rochester and told me stories of swimming out as a boy to touch the sides of battleships on the Medway at Chatham. The photograph is by Sibel Cahide Gul, who has created various images of the Medway and of Rochester, where she lives. This is one of a series of poems inspired by her photographs.


Boys swam out, Dad said,

to touch the talismanic sides

of docked battleships.


They’d perch on gantries,

peek in the clang of the yards,

smell the tar and sparks.


It’s theme-park stuff now,

and Dad’s long dead. His last wish:

scatter me on Medway.