Two Rivers

Imogen Forster

We have come to the Euphrates
and we get out of our bus
to watch it roll through Syria
to Iraq…

…its brown expanse
filmy, torpid, featureless.
The sandy edge gives way
under my foot; a man is fishing
from the log-jammed bank.
This is not as I imagined it.

Beside the February Thames
bracketed by tide-green stone,
I watch a cormorant grapple
with an eel…

by winter gulls, the archaic bird
secures its knotted prey,
swallows, and extinguishes
the glinting silver string.

This is the precise, specific
thing that fixes time and place,
singular, intimately observed.

The self-entangling fish
and the glossy cormorant,
head raised to the cold air,
wings angled again for flight.

This is the thing, not
that tireless stream –
for all the resonant names
of Babylon and Nineveh,
of Gilgamesh – that holds me fast.


End notes:
Poet, Imogen Forster, MA (Newcastle) in Writing Poetry, and translator of Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo from French into English. She also translates Spanish and Catalan.
Follow Imogen Forster on Twitter: @ForsterImogen