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.
A lone angler stares at the unyielding water,
scant hope in a desolate place.
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 –
clippers, cutters and coasters,
purveyors of empire and
ten pound liners heading out
Departures with no landmark,
no Three Graces or torch bearing statue,
no nostalgic image to hold dear.
Just a dismissive wave of a hand.