Walking from Wapping

 John Gibbens


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home, after press night,

the Culture section put to bed

(Irish edition) and the small

small-hours rain often floating

up into the floodlights

falling over Tower Bridge,

 

2am-ish, next day’s Times

and Sun already read,

the hour the news is born.

Or on a still, dry night

in the black water of St Katherine’s Dock

fish mouths seeding circular ripples.

 

From the fo’c’sle of a Baltic trader

a lamp left shining

and in the saloon of some outlandish white

millionaire’s yacht, a green-tinted light

but no-one stirring.

The zeroes of unconscious wealth.

 

Up the steps, past Dead Man’s Hole,

where a sign tells us the Thames’s corpses surface,

and into the harsh illumination,

loomed over by the blank operatic towers,

blue and white links of the suspension.

The muddy flood curdles round the piers.

  

Occasional quarrels of gulls echo

from midstream, where they settle on the moored

                                                          waste barges.

Unfazed by the lone pedestrian

a young fox digs in the Potter’s Field,

runs up the riverbank walk,

disappears between two office blocks.

 

And one night crashed from among the shrubs in  

                                                                 planters

a snipe or woodcock, lost and roosting

by the atrium of some corporate necropolis,

and made my blood jump down in that citadel

of prestige at the foot of London Bridge.

But of course it was life more abundant in fact.

 

The twisted narrow alley round the back

end of the cathedral, I never took:

Green Dragon Court, unlit, on a drizzling night –

no thank you. I stood staring down the grating

out in the square where what I realised

was a rat only after it had gone had gone.

 

Someone stacking boxes of oranges

loudly joins in the chorus of a disco track.

The lanes through Borough Market lined

with levees of Savoy cabbages, cauliflowers,

sandbag forts of potato sacks,

buzzing of forklifts, artics backing and being unloaded.

 

This was back in the days,

Borough High Street was no-one’s idea of fun –

just the odd gaggle of clubbers

coming down from the Ministry

to get a cab at the junction that’s been a junction

for a couple of thousand years.

 

I cross the crossroads

with the bad news behind me,

the eyelids of the day

jittering with their dreams,

where this dew slides across the whites

and pupils in expectation of the light.

 

 

  

 

 

 

An earlier version of this poem appeared in John Gibbens’           

           Collected Poems, Touched Press, 2000

 


Kater Murr's Press, Piraeus Series, 2004. 
Poem & image copyright © John Gibbens, 2004.