The river is a dark bone,
a long narrow forearm
which makes an ease of sorts.
The river is a soil-dark bone
full of the small, the odd,
all the names it was
before it was river, all the names.
Plucky light flips the surface,
larvae hold firm, jellied and hard.
Mouths open in the reed beds,
longest, oldest stories quieting into silt.
Sarah Westcott’s first collection Slant Light (Pavilion Poetry) was Highly Commended in the 2017 Forward Prizes. Her pamphlet Inklings was a Poetry Book Society Choice. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Poetry Review and Magma, on beer mats, billboards and the side of buses, and in anthologies including Best British Poetry. Recent awards are first prize in the London Magazine poetry prize and the Manchester Cathedral poetry prize.
“This is a provisional sketch, written on Sean Hewitt’s wonderful The God in the Forest course. For one of the assignments we were asked to think about the ways things push against the boundaries of themselves, and I began imagining the river-as-body. I wanted to say something about the different timescales of human and river – how they might cross-over with a human encounter but are also separate, unknowable existences. I love rivers; I loved wading along them as a child and finding larvae under flat stones. There is something miraculous about fresh river water (even if it is full of plastic particulates) – as if you can drink it and take in something of its wildness. I think this poem also suggests something about the ambivalence of our relationship with rivers, the naming of them as a human need. It is also about an equality of sorts between human and river without necessarily a power gradient defining either, if that makes sense.”