A man stands on Old Bridge looking east

 Stand here by the Sunday School,
 Beside the Scholars’ House,
 Where rubber plant and yellow hammer
 And pigeon speak in tongues. 
 The river brings cold clay,
 Washed away, washed away,
 And careless ploughs rubbing tynes
 Like silent crickets in tasteless hay
 Mock the ornamental scythe
 Crucified in converted barns – 
 Take a moment from your rush
 And lean to the moorstone parapet,
 Shade the mullet, the turning stone,
 The lost wheel and ladder-rung. 
 The eastern transits bring rice and spice
 To supply our cosmopolitan plate,
 And stevedore-echoes pointed-in
 Between courses of quays damply hung
 In residues of ebb and morning mist 
 Greet the verger’s jangling keys – 
 You might lean an elbow, or release
 The shackles of intellect to roam
 In a universe of idleness unseen
 By tyrant or timeclock, unchecked;
 And you might, if you stand deathly still,
 Applaud the kiss of land and sea,
 The risen spring and curious tide
 Lip to lip under bridging feet,
 Where lunar stream and village pump
 Inadvertently yet purposefully collide,
 Where the heart, slipped from grip
 Of aunty and uncle street, of cousin
 Back from the land of Jack, of mother
 Leaded in lichen slab and framed  
 memory’s mantle to fox, and father,
 Dear old man, but half the man
 He otherwise was when she was there
 To fight his cause – and you may,
 On the curlew signal, on still, still air,
 Catch the scent of open sea,
 The unspent credit of curiosity
 And production’s promise of trade,
 A place to sell what you may have made – 
 And in your stolen reflection, your minute
 Of time-sold-cheap, of progress steep
 Against the climb to chapel and moor,
 To raise your feet from spoiled floor,
 There you’ll find, in plain sight, clear
 As day on the cusp of night, or night
 On the bugle’s rise to make the day,
 There’s the reason for your town:
 Power! Opportunity! Fresh and salt!
 Each song sung to get ahead, and yet
 Each melody reliant upon the choir
 To search the vault for harmony.
 The song of bridges competes to welcome
 The passages of water beneath themselves,
 Below your feet a discourse of arches,
 Of eddies and swirls and democracies
 Of heron and cormorant, of rook and gull;
 And there is no book so full, no stook
 Or rick in harvest field, no hedge or gate,
 No lane or thorn-over-shadow to bend
 Before the easterly gale, can compare
 In time or sense with a sudden old-bridge-
 Sniff of seaward air, a snatch of whale
 And Lander’s skiff by Niger’s mouth
 And all of mystery and venture to regale – 
 Yes! Take a pause, take five, you are,
 After all, the only you that will be
 In this moment, these five, you alone
 And you alive, and you in yourself
 Sweetly, without mockery or jibe, free!
 Then, on your way to papers and milk,
 Or rocking home from Barley Sheaf 
 Or evensong upon your creaking knee,
 Pause and take the air, let your palms
 Grip the falling glass’s wheel and ride
 The laughter of a gathered sea. It’s here,
 On the bridge of your dreaming ship,
 With sycamore and granite and chips for tea,
 Here you’ll find horizons, and here
 Be touched and tempted by the mistress,
 The siren and lunar sprite, she
 Who goes between the spaces 
 Night after chiming midnight, her flight
 As dark by day, as bright as stars,
 As mysterious a pot as turns the clay,
 As silent as an oak’s nailed scars,
 As fierce as gannets over mackerel prey.