Riverine: Architecture and Rivers

IMG_1400 2Gerald Adler and Manolo Guerci, the editors of this book published today, admired Waterloo Sunrise, poem in 6 parts, commissioned in 2017 for the Waterloo Festival, and asked if they could include it with its proem – introductory section – with a short essay entitled Light Over Water. Because the proem was simply meant to herald the first performance it doesn’t appear elsewhere. It seems a good moment to upload the proem for a wider audience!

When there was only water

 

When there was no stretch

between the strand and Lower Marsh,

no span, no bearer over water except a wiry waterman,

 

at dawn, perhaps, the senses tuned to river flow, fish dance,

bird oratorio, meddled mud and silt and weed,

faint strains of a kind of blue,

notes made before this place was Waterloo.

 

But chances are today – however close

we hug the bank, or high we stand mid-river,

however keen our watch, bird eyed,

above the water flecking pearl and bottle green –

 

our senses won’t be primed for sunrise,

we’ll be unready for its marvellous surprise.

 

On the bridge attention flicks

from seated gull to sidling crow to hissing 176.

 

The city plays its engines loud, thumping on

until a break – the lifeboat’s motor

cuts out coming into dock – silent passage –

 

Look! The sun is lifted from its oven, to be blown.

Red blob of glass, red bulb, balloon, it wobbles

on a stem of light, lets light trail down.

 

Just as gold leaf is laid, brush tipped with grease, it shivers

as it flattens on the river. Threads of gold

snag on the drying wings of cormorants,

Egyptians angled on a boat.

 

A lorry passes with UNUSUAL in giant lettering,

a giant tweet. As if to emphasise that sunrise is.