(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.