The facts, roughly, are thus: enough
generations back that it’s no risk
to trade on the story, two of my ancestors,
brothers, having provided services
to the landed gentry and been left short
in the matter of payment, laid in wait
one evening for a particular squire
and when he returned from his day’s riding
parted him from his horse’s company
and proceeded, roughly, to give him a kicking.

Cinema would fade their exertions
to black; a chapter end here. A moment
for complicity or intellectual distance,
depending on the audience. The novel
would wend its way back to them
a few pages down the line; the seconds-later
fade in find them in the same place:
a hedgerow, two labourers short of breath
and one nobleman, roughed up thoroughly.

Oral history hands down two further facts:
they took themselves to Southampton (how?
a hayride? a journey of several nights,
travelling through woodland by moonlight?),
stowaways on a ship bound for Canada.

Stowaways! Of all the moments
for a narrative to peter out. And no real chance,
this far forward along the years,
to trawl the records of shipping companies,
make a guess at the vessel, its cargo, the date –
try to pin down the entry into Canada
of two brothers, outrunning the stocks
or even the gallows, with every reason
to go by names other than their own.

Neil Fulwood has published three collections with Shoestring Press, ‘No Avoiding It’, ‘Can’t Take Me Anywhere’ and ‘Service Cancelled’. A collection of political satires, ‘Mad Parade’ has just been published by Smokestack Books. Neil lives and works in Nottingham. Read other articles by Neil.