On Herons' Wings

On Herons' Wings

(for Iain Sinclair)

I had to walk the rest of the way to
your place from Victoria. The rain
clumped beneath my Cons and left
my footprints to follow. I stopped
at the cathedral, I don’t know why.
When I climbed the cold stairs, the
puddles prevailed, and proof of my
standing slipped smooth from the
pavement in unbroken reflection. I
pushed the door.

                             I don’t usually
go into churches. That’s something
my dad would have done. It could
be genetic or just a legacy. He left
an awareness of architecture and its
magnetism, his curiosity to have a
wee nose. But once inside, I felt out
of place; an intruder. I stepped into
dim light, gleaming shadow, taking
in the glinting mosaics,

                                   the forlorn
faces of the few waiting to confess,
the warm dry graves in the floor. I
tried to hear my footfalls, dull atop
those graves. I tried to hear a wick
waver amongst the quiet candles. I
saw stained glass windows darken
the day’s clean light. I finished my
circuit at the heavy donation boxes
and was about to go when

                                       a choir
began to practise. A boy between
each man sang Handel or Elgar or
somebody. The rich harmony they
struck was effective, and I waited
for a moment to listen. The voices
fell against pillar and arch, echoed
through cool air empty above aisle
and pew. I shivered, wondering at
the acoustics

                     of gold. No one looked
as I left blinking into the bright wet
day. A homeless man sold damp Big
Issues in the square. He was ignored,
breathing in the rain that stuck to his
teeth, stuck to his ruined coat, stuck
to his hair, to his ruined magazines.
I passed him, followed by footprints
that slipped silent from the pavement
, and walked towards the river

to stay close to the buildings, to stay
dry, heading south, heading towards
yours. But then on Vauxhall Bridge I
stopped to peer into the water below.
The day’s grey stretched all about me.
The tube had masked it, tall Victoria
narrowed it, but from there it unfurled
into all available space, wide as a web
‘cross the mouth of a cave.

                                         From there
the rigid power station spoke again in
yesterday’s colour. From there the sea-
gulls circled both banks. From there I
wondered at the sky, its cold depths so
vague. Then a bird flew from beneath
the bridge. A heron, alone, went tracing
the Thames with its straight wings out-
stretched, its loop-neck loose, feathers
grey as the day.

                           From there I watched
it go, past the gulls, alone, rare, or less
common; an outsider. I watched it go
‘til it was lost to London. At Vauxhall,
people held umbrellas. A man held my
gaze as if I had something to hide, but
as I came closer to yours, I wasn’t sure
I had anything at all. The solitary heron,
upriver by now, had drawn from me all
that was left of my imagination:

Originally published by Hark Magazine, 2014

Read On Herons' Wings with Hark Magazine here (pdf reader required depending on device used)

On Herons' Wings is dedicated to Iain Sinclair

An unofficial website (sanctioned by the author) includes an article about the writing process around this work here

Hark Magazine is no longer active

©James Bruce May 2014