This is the poem that I performed at yesterday's Worcestershire Literary Festival's riverside walk . . .
The River Holds her Memories
The river holds her memories
each one ephemeral as water,
but their chain is as enduring
as the river herself,
and she forgets nothing.
So in the river's memory
the centuries mingle, overlap,
every phase existing equally.
Memory does that if it lasts for long enough.
And in the river's dreaming,
the farmers watch their cows, hold festivals
to celebrate the summer sun and harvest
on the same cool meadows where the soldiers
forever fight their Civil War,
every day repeated in the memory of water.
And on the ornamental walk
the teatime lady's lacy ghost,
the sad drab couple with their ration books,
and the rattling thrills and leaps of skateboard kids
are equal phantoms
jostling through one another on the pathway.
As the river remembers, they are all still there.
The drought years and the flood years
are evened out
and bridges add and subtract themselves
all present at the same time
thronging with the forms of every person
who has ever crossed over them
with ox-carts, pack-beasts, carriages and cars
superimposed on the shapes of demolished tollhouses.
Swans cloud together with memory-swans,
sun shines through memories of rain
and daylight through darkness
the moon in all her phases
and the seasons all at once.
The cathedral shares its footings
with its Saxon counterpart
and the earlier enclosure where the first farmers
raised a solemn mound in the land
to mark the sacred centre of their lives.
Monastery and chapel-spires still rise
where monks and pagans merge with one another
as tourists snap cameras, children run
and an old man whiles away an afternoon
in a summertime drowse of cheap cider.
Dogs bark, thousands all at once,
to add to the cacophony
of boats and watermen,
trows and steamers
forever loading cargo on their spectral quays,
that endless cargo from the city,
the teacups and the fine kid gloves
for the hands of London ladies.
Everything is held at once
perpetual past and present
all things seen and being seen
preserved in her perfect memory;
allthe things the river knows
and never lost.