Greenwich Church Street by the Gypsy Moth pub to Sayes Court, Evelyn Street
South of the River
Words by Gordon Kerr, read by Joe Shire, Film by Sean Kerr, edited by Olly Robertson, sound edited by Matthieu Lefort
Leof the Jute, c. 550
I loiter by the bend in the river’s crook,
Near where the Ravensbourne softens its flow,
Mud blurring its surface,
Oil bruising the sky’s reflection.
And I think of him stumbling ashore
At morning’s first blood,
Eyes wide, veins full,
Skin stripped from his soul.
‘Ho! Stay those oars that have widowed waves
And struck this barren strand,’ he might have called,
‘This place will welcome our ancestors
But here time will swallow our tooth-white bones
And make meaningless our lives.’
By evening’s chill
The water’s quiet glass breathed mist
And, as the riverbirds’ echoes faded,
Above the dank sail-shrouded shelter
Smoke began to cloud the mizzling air,
Flames adding grammar to the darkness
While stones, blushing in the heat
Beneath the whistling timbers,
Cracked like the skulls of enemies.
Huddled skin to skin at the water’s edge,
Souls singing for this new land,
They embraced their redemption, wept
And burned their boats.
A complexity of bells
Exhausts the sky of birds
Above the broken teeth
Of Lewisham’s slow yawn.
This is not her weather –
Outside, domed by a gabardine sky,
The rain is brittle, the wind sculpting
Angled figures in the polished streets.
As the morning drifts to its dreary conclusion,
Her mind grows wings;
She recalls the moonlight
Sprinkling like broken pearls
To the shadowed stones of an ancient city’s courtyards,
Its passages echoing with the whispers of dusty robes
And the sighs of bored calligraphers,
Discussing lost hours
While the evening fell in layers.
But, as the Sunday morning bells fade,
She sheathes his body yet again,
Eyes closed, the blood stopped in her veins.
An hour later, she stoops by the window
To pick up her discarded clothing
And, glancing out, she sighs,
Soul acquiescent, heart flown homeward
By the bird of lost spring