The Colloquium of the Brooks

Ribble close to Mill Brook






On the silted shore of the Ribble
Where the gulls dip and call
The river banks her vista
And the tides ebb and flow
In unending expeditions
From the land to the sea
The brooks broach their quantas
And descry their misery.

Fish House Brook:
How long now?

Penwortham Brook:
Patience little sister, can’t you see the times are changing?

Fish House Brook:
I’m barely in a position to perceive change
Caught in the constrictions of the concrete culverts
Cut by the man-made channels, blinkered in blind
Alley-ways, forced through dire traps and grilles,
Stumbling in terror via that jail house prison
Cruelly manufactured for me below Hill Road South.

Mill Brook:
If you would look beyond those despotic fixities you would see
The dark pall of the industrial era has lifted, your brother
And I are freed from servitude, our water running clearer by the day.

Fish House Brook:
And you see this as consolation?
Do you not remember when the magnitude of our flow
Turned water wheels, had the force to overturn wagons
And shifted the lay of the land to sculpt our valleys?

Mighty Belisama, you must recall our glory days
Before they shifted your course from Watery Lane to Castle Hill,
Deformed our travails, forever destabilised our tables?

Quarrelsome brooks, stare firmly at the quintessence
Of your course and see all that remains constant is change.
Since the ice lords rode our backs, pitched us deeper
Into the frozen earth, and through the aeons before
Our wills and paths have never been wholly our own.

Fish House Brook:
That the principalities of nature shape us I do not disclaim.
But these men… with their yellow jackets
And heaving ploughs, excavators and cranes,
Winding cords, caterpillar rolls, drop down drains,
Their discernment as dense as a builder’s helmet,
Vision blank as a steel lid, they are numb as their machines.

Penwortham Brook:
Not like the orphans who worked my looms.
I remember their knocked legs stumbling to my bank,
How they stared into the rainbow of my polluted depths.
With wide white eyes they contemplated their horror in me,
Knowing not what they were or what I could be.

Fish House Brook:
At least then we were seen. Now the people stagger
By blind as drunks, ditching debris on our banks.

Mill Brook:
Humans… still given wholly to gods
They cannot see. Servile seeking invisible wealth
Not even gleaming gold. Their only idols strip plastic
Features on the screens, flip in pixels to wide dumb grins.

Fish House Brook:
The vapid screens suck out their lives.
They are not aware of, nor do they understand their sacrifice.
Whilst trapped within their drains we wither up and die.

Penwortham Brook:
Belisama, tell her that isn’t true.

How many years have men visited our banks?

Fish House Brook:
Well, I remember when we were treated with reverence.
Do you recall the long days spent by smiths at the forge,
The bold shatter of sparks, the bright ring of the hammer,
The beauty of gifts delivered in resonant ceremonies,
Swords, axes, heads crafted from stone and those of enemies
Whilst now all they drop in is litter and fag ends.

Penwortham Brook:
It was when the factories rose that the human race
Became effulgence and we it’s dumping ground.

Fish House Brook:
Now red fades to grey and the system is dying.
Their wonders drop, one by one, like falling dolls.
They roam the streets, jobless and desolate.
There is no hope in their eyes.
They have no strength left.

Bearers of the brooks, steerers of the streams,
Deliverers of my bright waters. Do not dismay!
Like the course of a river, times will change
We are bound into a whole with sea and rain.
With he who brings the tides come the waves.
I still commune with the lords of the glaciers
And they say we have not got long to wait.

Fish House Brook

3 thoughts on “The Colloquium of the Brooks

  1. Gwynn ap Nudd says:

    I really like this poem.
    You seem here to be revisiting some of your previous poems about Belisama and Fish House Brook, weaving them together, juxtaposing different kinds of waterways and exploring some very interesting themes that have featured before in your blog.
    I agree with Belisama that :
    ‘we are bound into a whole with sea and rain’
    This last week some parts of the country have experienced floods, rivers have burst their banks and we are reminded that we are ultimately quite helpless against nature’s power.
    Even as individuals, in our inner core,we are so bound to water that almost 60 per cent of our body weight is water-and in new born infants its more like 75 per cent.
    And yet how soon we forget this miracle of life.
    Without water, the body goes into shock-we die after just a few days.
    Water is precious-something to revere.
    Water scarcity affects every continent. Water will be one of the biggest issues for humanity of the 21st century.
    There is enough freshwater on the planet for everyone but its unevenly shared –
    around 1.2 billion live in scarcity.

    Belisama says in the poem;
    ‘I still commune with the lords of the glaciers
    And they say we have not got long to wait.’

    Actually a new report shows nearly all the regions of the polar ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic are melting.
    The Arctic is global warming’s canary in the coal mine.
    Ice is getting thinner
    Eventually summers in the Arcitic will be ice free.
    Whats happening in the Arctic is a harbinger of what’s to come….

    for polar bears, whales
    walruses, seals
    native peoples, plants

    Melting glaciers and ice sheets contribute to rising sea levels
    Half the world’s islands lie less than 6 feet above sea level.
    Cities like Shanghai and Lagos will be at risk.

    ‘with he who brings the tides come the waves’

    For a long time, we have treated this earth and its seas as a rubbish dump, a wasteland.
    But slowly some people are waking up.
    ‘Patience, little sister, can’t you see the times are changing?’

    Something that started the change was a picture called ‘Earthrise’
    In 1968 the first manned voyage took place to orbit the moon.
    ‘Earthrise’ was a series of (photograph) shots taken by an astronaut on the Apollo 8 mission.
    One picture was the most influential photograph ever taken.
    It showed our beautiful planet with its blue waters and the land we live on.
    They went to the moon but ended up discovering the Earth.

    The astronauts had been drilled and trained for every eventuality, save one-the awe-inspiring sight of our own planet.
    It was so typical of our arrogance and blindness.
    For the first 3 orbits of the moon, the men had turned their backs to the earth as it reappeared over the lunar horizon.
    They were actually the first people to lose contact with our own planet, not being able to see or radio earth for the duration of their journey behind the moon.
    It was only when they completed the 4th orbit that they could regain contact and opened their eyes to the beautiful earth that was home.
    Our lovely planet stood in delicate fragility and splendid isolation. For a moment everyone held their breath and then..
    One of the astronauts was heard by millions on earth to say:

    ‘Oh my God,look at that picture over there. Isn’t that something?’

    And just a few days ago I read your poem ‘Wild Ivy’
    And thinking about a few lines in that poem.. I think I later heard the Earth say back to those space travellers- who gazed in awe – something like …

    ‘Joy-lament the world you fail to see,
    I can see you’ve travelled far to reach me
    and ask’ what message do you bring to me?’

    The Earthrise photo was actually taken on Christmas Eve all those years ago
    I guess well before you were born.
    Its like the astronauts were the Magi, Three Wise Men who had travelled far-and under the stars- to see the Divine, and in one moment, they were humbled and their lives, and ours, were never quite the same.

    What a miracle it is to be born in this amazing world
    However hard the journey,
    however deep the river,
    however high or low the tide,
    its like a river and we just have to

    ‘Go with the flow’ and be thankful.

    Thanks yet again for a great poem that has so much to say to us.about what really matters.
    We must act, before it gets too late, to save our seas and rivers and protect this beautiful blue/green planet

  2. Gwynn ap Nudd says:

    I really like this poem.

    There are so many things going on in the poem.
    But a persistent theme is the idea of nature being confined, being in chains and degraded.
    And of course this is, sadly, so very true to what we see going on around almost everywhere.
    You talk for example of Fish House Brook:

    ‘Caught in the constrictions of concrete culverts
    Cut by the man-made channels, blinkered in blind
    Alley-ways, forced through the traps and grilles
    Stumbling in terror via that jail house prison….’

    And it reminded me so much of another poem I like by Stevie Smith.



    The old sick green parrot
    High in a dingy cage
    Sick with malevolent rage
    Beadily glutted his furious eye
    On the old dark
    Chimneys of Noel Park.

    Far from his jungle green
    Over the seas he came
    To the yellow skies, to the dripping rain,
    To the night of his despair.
    And the pavements of his street
    Are shining beneath the lamp
    With a beauty that’s not for one
    Born under a tropic sun.

    He has croup. His feathered chest
    Knows no minutes of rest.
    High on his perch he sits
    And coughs and spits,
    Waiting for death to come.
    Pray heaven it wont be long.


  3. Gwynn ap Nudd says:

    I have really enjoyed thinking about your poem which has so much to say to us about today’s world.
    I think that there is something not quite right at the heart of how we see nature and all the living creatures that we have to share the planet with.
    We seem to think that they belong to us, that they are either extensions of our egos or objects to be contained or used for our enjoyment.
    We don’t respect wildness. We don’t allow things to be.
    I just read in the news today that fracking for shale gas is getting big government support via licences and probably tax breaks.
    And that means that the Ribble area-all round Preston, Southport, Blackpool and eventually out further east to the Forest of Bowland is going to be desecrated for fossil fuel exploitation.
    The area will change. Its the new North Sea oil boom, they say.

    I think John Keats said it so well in his poem about a dove.
    I think he saw that we must respect limits..
    ‘I had a dove and the sweet dove died’

    I had a dove and the sweet dove died,
    And I have thought it died of grieving.
    Oh, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied
    With a silken thread of my own hand’s weaving.
    Sweet little red feet ! Why should you die-
    Why would you leave me, sweet dove! Why?
    You lived alone on the forest-tree,
    Why, pretty thing, could you not live with me?
    I kissed you oft and gave you white peas;
    Why not live sweetly, as in the green trees?


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