The church is early 12th century. Some two miles from here

The Romans crossed the estuary by a ford

Now long impassable

The shades settle


I am confused by their weight, my questions muffled

By their insistent conversation

As though wings beat in dissonance, we struggle


Before they leave for the drowned land, the sky darkening,

One with a hidden face leaves me a thing

Carefully carved from wood, now pocked by seaworms living


I put it to my mouth, it makes a sound

And at the calling, all the shades turn round.


Elements of this poem came to me when I was walking alongside the Deben estuary in Suffolk, with Ramsholt church on the ridge above. I put it together as I walked. However, it isn’t really any one estuary and the bit about the Romans, my mind probably lifted from the Colne estuary in Essex. The poem is about time living and time dead. I find it easy to think about time and history when I’m by an estuary.

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  1. Liked the estuary’s voice….interesting perspective…..

  2. I like the subtle reinforcement of the word “century” in the first line by “estuary” in the second line. I say “subtle” because of the extra syllable in “estuary” that leads the word away from obvious rhyme.

    • Yes, thanks, Elaine. I like small variations of rhyme or metre because they stop a serious poem becoming too predictable and facile. Our closest surviving relatives, Chimpanzees, are fascinated by small variations in a pattern (which requires, 1, a pattern and 2, varying from it) and I think we’re the same. It’s a stop and think moment.

  3. Simon, You are quite right this is a wonderful poem! I enjoyed the personal context you added following the poem as to what let you to write this.

    • Thanks, Christy. I quite often find musing about the history of a place, the people who’ve been there before, leads to this sense that somehow they’re still there.


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