The Friday Poem on 08/07/22
We chose ‘Tellisford Weir’ by Ruth Sharman to be our Friday Poem this week because the language Sharman uses is precise and unambiguous, and yet the poem still manages to approach its subject aslant. Each word implies so much — the river, the glide downstream, those bright little buttercups balanced against dark water. The short lines and the tercet form give us time to reflect, and the resulting effect is measured, contemplative and weighty.
We’ve swum in this river before,
though no one steps
in the same river twice.
The glassy shock, four or five frantic strokes
before we glide downstream
as if we could go on for ever:
these are familiar; what’s new
is you reciting the poem about plums
as we lounge in the grass
and me wondering how many
she’d saved for breakfast, and why
the plums should matter anyway.
You say a poem can’t cheat time,
but look how much you learn by heart —
to stop the slippage of brain cells
or for the sheer pleasure
of feeling words rolling off your tongue
like water tumbling over the weir.
And you want the detail too:
is this the River Frome, you ask,
and what’s the name of that bird?
The river never stays the same
and nor have we: just look how far
we’ve come … Wagtail, I say,
and we watch it flit from rock
to rock, at eye level
a scattering of buttercups
wavering in the wind:
little dishes of sunlight
balanced against the dark water.