Last July I wrote about a trip I made to London to see my friend, Nick Richard’s exhibition. The evening prompted me to write a poem that I want to share this post. It is, I feel, relatively straight forward and was inspired by a conversation I had that night while watching the sky darken over the river.
For Paul Haydock-Wilson 5.7.12
Corrugated, tidal river returns,
Slaps the muddy bank, again, again,
Imperious, impervious, eternal.
It was down there you tell me
You placed the etching plates,
For the Thames to pattern to its fancy,
Now rectangles of colour hang in galleries,
Messages from the river we cannot read.
Another walks that beach tonight,
Hunts for shards of London’s history,
As the mudlarks have done before him,
For this river tempts,
Hints at treasure twice a day.
You tell me the river’s beauty fades,
We no longer see those thin cranes
That suggested Martian war machines,
Just apartments, anodyne housing.
The sky is no longer the welcome pink,
That drew us out of doors to survey these changes.
Yet the past clings to every fired red brick.
Each mild steel stanchion
Holds the fading energy of other lives,
Echoes of those who moved to the rhythm of tides,
A shrinking colony of ghosts.
Each year more is lost,
Fewer buildings to ground the souls at sunrise.
So more disappear, evaporate at first light,
To go who knows where?
For energy, you say, cannot be lost,
But translates in form to something else.
As we humans erase our history
In the pursuit of the easy riches,
Evermore empty, our souls will have to touch plasterboard,
Less permanent than red brick,
Insubstantial when placed against river etched plate.
I was inspired by the idea that parts of us remain behind when we die, connected to the fabric of the buildings we inhabited or worked in and how the gentrification of the river is leading to a loss of connection to our history. Paul, to whom the poem is dedicated, once placed an etching plate into the Thames and produced a series of prints from the retrieved plate.
his weekend I am reading at the Lechlade Festival and also facilitating a poetry workshop. I wonder how that will etch the writings of the people who participate and what work they will produce?
I must say I found Gatsby very disappointing, over long and unsubtle. I thought Toby Maguire was miscast and the whole thing had the look of a tableau rather than a moving film.
Have a good weekend.