the city grew around this sprawling of water, with celts and romans and anglo-saxons all settling and resettling the land: Plowonidonjon, Londinium, Lundene. letters shift and disappear but something remains in each name, the thread of an idea, an echo of impossible water, saying: ‘too wide to bridge’. here, we cannot cross. the city is named for the thames. london is not people or buildings, but a memory of humans defeated by a river.
whenever i sit by the thames, i think of you, of us, years ago, bellies flat on the embankment wall, watching the water, watching it swell, and break. do you remember the boy we saw, how beautiful and sleek he was, like a fast running stream? and how, when he saw us staring at him, your hat, an old army cap you found in your garage, fell from your head and sailed downwards? you tried to catch it, arms flailing like those cartoon characters who run straight off a cliff edge and scramble in the air, trying to hold on to nothing, trying not to fall. by the time it reached the surface of the water, the boy had disappeared. later, breathless from running along the bank, following your hat until it got dragged under a boat-restaurant, we called him angel, spirit, nymph, and your hat a votive offering for us having seen what we were not meant to. it could be worse, you said, we could have lost our sight, been turned into spiders, been turned into men. the gods, you said, had a strange sense of justice.
in certain places, when the tide is out, i climb down onto the bed of the river, to be where the water was, will be, imagine being under it. i pick up shells, and later at home i put them to my ear and hear the river moving, embedded in me, keeping me here.