matt's notebook

On Westminster Bridge

The Thames wears a khaki shirt
with red bridge braid to beat some coloured kid
who, unknown to you, smuggled cocaine.
Detained, deported, dead.

Tugela River, who are you?
You who makes his heart a reed.
You who bears his body to the fields.
You who wears a nervous look.
Make like the open water.

The Thames wears black polyester track pants,
waxes hair back into a shine,
cuts its own sweet 4 a.m line,
calls a mini-cab.

All bright and glittering in the smoked up room.
A sight so touching, so beautiful,
never saw, never felt so deep

UThukela, ungubani wena?
Wena oyenza inhliziyo yakhe umhlanga.
Wena othwala umzimba wakhe ehlangeni.
Wena othwalamehlovalamehlo.
Shaya sengathi umfula ocebile.

Matthew John Williams
2000, revised 2004, 2011

Rather arrogantly, this is a rewrite of Wordsworth's sonnet Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802:

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!