The River Rother Engineer
The levels are high again,
noticeable now to the naked eye,
between finger and thumb
I mark out the integrity of the washlands,
Its life once blackened sour
by the coke plants at Orgreave and Brookhouse,
chub, roach and perch ,
are now able to sustain themsleves enough
to let the angler’s hooks,
cast a bounteous bait and switch,
there is taking, receiving,
and we must be careful in what surfaces.
The landscape only lets
us sculpt for the breadth of a season.
Will our hands make
the right moves to dam the water’s desires?
It is ugly.
Comissioned by a Lord something or other,
the artist’s name has too many letters
and it sounds foreign.
It has no straight lines, it is bent
with sharp edges at all angles.
A pensioner complained to the supervisor
“You’ll have someone’s eye out with that”
I agreed. A pile of nonsense.
The lawyers stride past it then past me
barely looking up as they show their passes.
I remember their applause at the unveiling,
the clink of glasses as they talked shop,
the sculpture standing naked, the red sheet
lying sadly on the marble plinth.
I watch the visitors who gawp at it,
tilting their head to one side then the other
as if it could be made to make sense
by simple geometry.
I look at the scrawls on the visitor ledger and wonder
How many would remember me,
my uniform clean and well …uniform Ha! –
– how like my pass photograph
I look, don’t they see purpose there?
I follow the curves of the sculpture
as they either curl back into themselves
or splinter off into space.
Rapid Eye Movement
Is the shape of Love the space between
our sleeping bodies?
Found in the moving penumbras of light,
an opera of shadows and mute players,
our limbs loll to align with stars,
marking out our territory.
Two foetal spine to spine postures,
defending our middle ground,
switch to face to face, to feast on the stories
coagulating in the valley between,
to give us the strength to shift worlds in our dream,
to ready dreams for our world.
There are no schedules here, no appointments of dread,
no lesser addictions to cope, we breathe
in each other, chests filling up, eyes flicker like a meter
we are all upward pull,
only these sheets and the weight of our flesh
anchoring us here.
Skimming Across Lough Neagh, Late September
I plunge my hand in the shingle and silt
and pick up a stone, smoothed by tides
that tease the edges by the pier stilts.
I release it, smudging the water’s skin,
each time touching, briefly knowing
first impressions of holiness and sin.
Faces flick like fine spray in the shallow,
wetting, creasing, becoming less clear
going further out where I can’t follow.
All the stones sink so it doesn’t matter
how many times it skips across the water,
any throw can catch the wind, be faster.
I pick another one, trace along the stray
cracks breaking the illusion of surface,
see the glint of treasures thrown away.
A mackerel sky portends a speaking swell,
pushing us back towards our cars, who of us
can stay and face the accusatory knell.
Glen Wilson was highly commended inThe 2015 Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition. He has won the Poetry Space competition and was shortlisted for The Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2014 and the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016. Twitter @glenhswilson