The Old Bridge at Bradwell

(for Neil and Christine Roberts)

 

 

 

The old stone bridge

is where folk stood to talk,

 

watching the water go under,

hearing its fluent music

gather their words

 

to carry notions, ruminations, gossip

away in a silver wrapping

of rippled sound.

 

Sometimes, too, the women would come,

down the stone steps to the brookside

to launder the linen, the clothes.

 

And again, all the soil,

the sweat and the swear of life,

would be washed in that water,  

rolled in that bundle

of tinkling, tumbling sound,

 

to be carried down,  

out of sight and of mind,

rinsed by the workings of water.

 

Note   Neil and Christine Roberts, to whom the poem is dedicated, are old friends who live just by the brook which runs through the upper end of Bradwell in Derbyshire in the Peak District. Historically, Bradwell is a mining village and a centre of Christian Nonconformism. I do not know for a fact that any conversations ever took place on the bridge in question, but when the road is quiet I notice a natural instinct to pause there and look down into the water. If one is with someone, the tendency to stand there and talk while looking down into the water is, again, natural and instinctive. The rippling water soothes the body and somehow assists the flow of discourse. So I can't but think that what the poem evokes did not in various ways occur frequently across time. But if it didn't it makes for a good imagining. And you can make it happen yourself once more simply by reading the poem.