The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

The first freeze


First ice of the year, on the Trent & Mersey


This is what we call ‘cat ice’ – probably because it’s just thick enough to support a foolish cat…. for a while anyway. It came in the night and it’s still here at 11am. Our winter freeze has begun.

The ice will come and go now until the spring. Some years (like last year) we barely see ice at all. Some years (like 2010) we get ice so thick and settled that it grows to an eight-inch-thick pavement, and you can cross it with a wheelbarrow full of firewood. Well, you can if you want to. But you’d be an idiot, as I explained to my ex when he did it.

So here’s a poem about that first frozen morning on the canals…. and if you want to read it with an article I wrote in my first days as Canal Laureate, visit the official blog here.


Frozen In

You wake, and know.
The boat is still as bones
and you, its red heart beating.

The canal was taken in its sleep
and paved with cold. The chilled air
gathers round your feet.

The ice, disgruntled, shifts itself
and chews a little on the hull,
sets itself to set again.

Beneath the glaze fish flicker
like grey flames,
silent, watchful.

Inside, you go on with the business
of making tea,
waiting for crocuses.



8 comments on “The first freeze

  1. Faye Godfrey
    December 13, 2014

    Oh, I’m there! 🙂

  2. vivienne blake
    December 13, 2014

    Brrrr! I love canals; don’t do well in the cold.

  3. Pseu
    December 14, 2014

    Marvellous, Jo!
    I remember strong ice on canals in the Midlands (Cookley, nr Kidderminster) when I was a teenager – we never dared walk on it though!

    But I can’t cope with the wordpress ‘snow’ – disconcertingly like migraine aura!!!!

  4. Kim Moore
    December 14, 2014

    This is such a great poem Jo. Is it going to be in the collection? Hope so!

  5. Jo Bell
    December 14, 2014

    You reckon? Thanks, Kim, I appreciate that. Yes, it is 🙂

  6. J V Birch
    December 15, 2014

    Reblogged this on J V Birch and commented:
    Jo Bell is an amazing poet, and I particularly love this poem, helps me with our hot Christmas !

  7. Suzanne MacLeod
    January 6, 2015

    “The boat is still as bones
    and you, its red heart beating”

    For a moment there I… you know.

  8. Julian Beach
    May 1, 2015

    “….still as bones.”

    Oh yes.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on December 13, 2014 by in Writing exercises.
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