I have often stood bemused
across the river from fabled Pocahontas’ grave,
once Defoe country, his brickworks and Crusoe,
a place you don’t name
for fear of ridicule,
now a murk-rippled Thames’ scummy shoreline.
Arriving seagulls shriek in derision;
dingy dredgers dawdle like shifty tramps;
lumpen container ships insult the humbled port;
cranes droop and rust, rail tracks disappear
under shabby weeds –
the only life reclaiming this stretch of river.
Behind me a whiteboarded pub,
‘The World’s End’,
named by a jester
as though this miserable river front
could ever match Finis Terrae.
Yet in some ways it does.
It is the crumbling jetty,
the visible vestige, of our old world –
departures of tall ships,
clippers, cutters and coasters,
purveyors of empire and
ten pound liners heading
to Australia have become
departures with no landmark to recall,
no Three Graces or torch bearing statue,
no nostalgic image to hold dear,
not even a dismissive wave of a hand.
A lone angler stares at the unyielding water.