Poem: Boat Race Blues

By Roger McGough.

Boat race day, and supporters
line up on the banks of the Thames
from Putney Pier to Chiswick Bridge

What the race officials hadn’t expected,
nor television crews anticipated
was the sudden and terrifying sight

of twenty or so crocodiles surfacing
beneath Barnes Bridge and swimming
upriver towards the oncoming boats

Both crews, their backs to the danger
and misinterpreting the horror-stricken faces
of the coxes, increased the stroke-rate

“Crocogators!” portmanteaued the crowd.
Too late. The first met the leading boat
(light blue, as it happens) head on

It rose like a praying mantis before overturning.
The plucky would-have-been runners-up
met the same fate three strokes later

A giant saltwater captured on Eel Pie Island
some days after the carnage could offer
no assistance regarding the police enquiry.

Roger McGough was one of the poets behind the Mersey Sound anthology, newly reissued in a 50th-anniversary edition by Penguin Classics. He presents Poetry Please on BBC Radio 4 and is the president of the Poetry Society.

This article appears in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition