My thirst is unshakeable
I see it everywhere
In bottles and glasses
But a river is more than its water.

A wild greenness
Torn in places
Tiny hairlines splinter out
Mathematical ripples dissect
Reflections sliced into pixels.

Purple buddleia dying to be yellow
Virginia creeping red like a fag end 
Slazenger trackies in Donnay socks with fishing rods
Immigrants in Kappa roll joints
Their trainers dangling above the water.

A barge window
Opens onto somebody’s life
The murmur of an engine
Flushes out the clay
Of our rotten history
The reeds bow their heads.

Her hair was short when she got here
But now it’s down to her elbow
Where has she come from?
What are her gifts?
She trusted the flow of this crocodile river
Murky and laden with silt.

I’ve seen coconuts in the mud
And moss and mould in the cracks
Grime washed from toxic buildings
And dusty streets
A stinking soup
Hiding all that plastic
I want to jump in.

Plants tease open the cracks
Of a river left to fester
Working life is stranded on banks
Side by side with the privilege of rowers
How have you come to be here?

The tobacco factories have gone
Blown up with dynamite
On a Sunday morning
I lay in bed and heard the noise
From three miles away.

A makeshift boathouse
With corrugated sides
Bridge after bridge
Of twisted metal birds
Flattened feathers
Brittle beak and claws.

On safari
Through our creaking precious freedom
Beneath our feet are hundreds of rats
We pass homes on both sides of the river
Nothing else matters.

Squeeze every last inch of this plot
With your hoardings
Above the foundations
Above the Georgians
Above the Romans
What defines a building’s worth?

And do you know about the ballast?
Flax, calendula, squirting cucumbers ejaculated their seeds
Figs creep up to Castle Park
Or about Goldney Grotto, inlaid with shells?
In winter the surface a slab of ice reflecting
Six thousand shades of green.

Do you have the strength to stay?
To hold your ground?
To grow your house?
Will my corner shop be your corner shop?
Will there be more green?
More grey?

To this city, I say
Don’t give up
Don’t swim in the shallows
Look for loopholes
Go against the manmade tide
Break for the sea.