Mud Soup and Babble
Just where water and flat mud meet, there's a line without any edge
where water insinuates infinity in sediment.
That line's hidden away behind the river's screen, a longleaf palisade
of flag iris blades, each one scimitared up through weed that lisps
pure slime, though to touch it gifts a finger's poor shy tip
with something other: all the fresh-laundered roughness of cotton.
In that secret no-man's gap water clambers little meniscus ladders,
fiddles capillary ways between every particulate flake, interdigitates
each spicule of ground mineral to quench a dark moon-snow
that was carried downstream, dropped and layered as lines of text.
Mud's history is close enough in to be a story of origin.
Before that it was all just hot bang and dead sweat.
In the beginning was mud soup and babble. Vowel came first,
as wind, before universe had lips, tongue, teeth. Then
consonant, but not yet word (its slim-fit limbs; its fibs; its hymns).
Nothing happened, mostly; in the beginning was things let be and then
compressed. The first consonant popped out when mud parted;
a little fart of marsh gas and all the rest followed. Mud was first to be marked;
by flies' feet, moorhen's claws, licked into esses by grass snakes’ bellies:
all actions that left mud impressed, remarking, not quite remembering,
but holding every part as a remembrance. Tenderness came before all this.
A kiss: the one lapping into another; the liminal before the shore.
Mud won't record the sudden sight: a cormorant breaking surface
now from just beneath my barge's bow, a chunky footlong eel twisting
between the grey pliered billhooks of its custard beak.
All its gallows nonchalance; juggle-sucking lunch headfirst down,
scrag throat bulging, pulsing with life's beat and fury.
Mud records nothing of death's slow dance. Nothing but a little guano
will be left behind to mark this brief triangulation of our six eyes,
the two busy being sleeved in its black gullet, two satiated,
two startled: wondering; aware that if mud won't mark it
the descendants will. A record's pressed, untended as an echo,
its layers slick and smear. This dry set ink.
Dickon Bevington has previously had work published in The Alchemy Spoon. He has worked as a psychiatrist in children's mental health in the NHS for the last thirty years, as well as a London-based charity. For the last three years he's lived on the River Great Ouse in East Anglia, in the old narrowboat he's restored, and some of his poems address this fragile mudscape, alongside themes of finding love in later life, aging parents, and social injustice.