Two Poems

Susan Wicks

Nuclear

Each morning as I round the bend,
the same shock –
that flash of river light, the bridge,
the cooling towers –
always that first sight gasp
as if they’ve been dropped there –

Yet the landscape knows them: a fragment of old stone
moves sideways, and through a tangle of red
the river glitters, the bridge
spins out its turquoise cobweb and there they stand
like a cruet – squat on the flood plain, lit
apricot, steaming quietly into this end of night.

I’ve heard there’s a place where fish
swim up and down a ladder, mouthing through murk
like cruising angels;
where a student strung himself up for days
from a concrete cliff while the canal
sent back his image;
where they hand out packages of pills
to every household, in case of leaks.
But here at my open window the field’s
rippled with leaves, and blue,
the every morning noise
of cock-crow, unidentified shadows finger-flapping across.

River, Bridge, Nuclear Power Station

(Auvillar/Trois Rivières)

It’s the same river only wider, the same sun
caught at a lower angle, and the stream
grey-green as England, now flows clear
of all those clotted lilies. The bridge’s rainbow span
is wider, lighter, has shaken itself free
of blue. From somewhere unseen
behind the harbour buildings another concrete crock
sends up its plume of steam.

But the same tongue
rises, full of questions – a woman with a child
in a stroller: Ecoute, on ira voir, and what I hear
is someone else, an arch of buzzing air
that joins our continents. Her phrase
melts into distance, touches the far shore.