Like Dante, I came upon a river
Glossily flowing by,
Stippled by sky;
At weirs it hissed and tumbled trembling,
Falling like napped flints, glinting hither-thither.
In its fast-flowing but shallow reachesIts stony sun-striated bed
Was clear through brown water;
An eel-grass halter
Dully waved at the bankside vetches
As sailing clumps of vegetation sped.
The heat was up and the mid-morning skyLike Wedgwood-ware was blue and white,
Pouring down light; the swifts
With dips and lifts
Screamed above collared doves, wary
And chestnut in an alder’s thick-leaved bight.
Outleaning with its grey and ragged boleCrack willow fingered at the stream;
Moorhen with scarlet bills
Stalked the banks’ sills;
The willow’s shock-haired seeds like spoil
Voyaged in the breeze and the sun’s gleam.
And so the waterwheel: in water’s roarIt split the polished serpentine
To acrobatic frothing,
Absorbing power to drive its gear
And through a flywheel, a production line.
Its battered paddles, wetly mossed with age,Heavily trundled, flinging spray
Which flashed like metals turning
Or sulphur burning;
Downstream, the water’s shattered suffrage
Settled, and foam and mote-specked swept away.
Here and far the wheel’s rattle caught the earsLike a shout in the dark forest
Of waters; there’s no showing
What brute knowing
It’s symbol for – the bitter tears
Of one who’s on a treadmill or a quest.
====================© July 2013