A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Inside my friends’ house (in the 18thcentury,
a shop), I wake to the clank, clank, clank
of the blacksmith’s hammer hard against iron,
yellow orange, I imagine, from the forge.
In this part of town, much dates from long
ago. My friends’ red back door opens
to the graveyard where thin, grayed slabs
tilt above ragged tufts of grass,
inscriptions rubbed away by years of weather.
Nearby, St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church
rises on ground so high the floods can’t reach it—
well, they haven’t reached it yet.
Those medieval master church builders chose
the safest spots. In the last Medway flood,
water lapped at my friends’ stoop where they’d piled
their useless sandbags, but the river never
crossed the threshold. Lucky. On the other
side of the road, brown water eddied
through sitting rooms for days, past
Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s.
Neighbors helped save one woman’s new
washer, carried upstairs before the river
breached, but her new hardwood floor, just laid
after the last dousing, buckled and ruined.
My friends know the next flood is coming.
And the next. We pause to study the high water
mark on the whitewashed wall opposite
before we cross the medieval stone bridge—
one lane wide, but open to cars and trucks.
The bridge’s strong back arches and arches
over the flow of water, addled and scant,
an implausible threat, like rumors of trouble,
warming days, warmest recorded months.
We slip our coats off in the midday sun.
Who could not enjoy this fine weather?
I’ve bought my friends a horseshoe to hang above
the door. We discuss which way to hang it.
One school of thought advises open side down
so luck pours over all who pass.
The other says, No! Nail the horseshoe—
its cold, hammered curl of weight—open
side up lest good luck drain away.
The only way to know which theory holds
is to take a chance. We’re laughing: clueless.
Copyright 2019 Sandy Solomon