The aftermath

'The Aftermath', a poem in response to John Sell Cotman's painting, 'Waterfall in a desolate landscape'

The aftermath

The aftermath

Whatever it was that came
to steal the waterfall
(leaving its raw mouth gaping,
full of ghostly froth)

came suddenly.

Ashen, stripped, the trees lean

One branch, shrinking visibly,
reaches back across the rift –
uncurls its twisted hand
to touch the other tree.

As if by a single moment of connection
swift as an artist’s brush
the beck could be made to rush
headlong through the glen
to where it used to fall,
loud and fresh.

As if colour could seep back
like rising sap, and grass once more
be green.

As if touch might be like breath,
like spring, like voice, or like a shower of summer rain
and enough
to bring the songbirds thronging back
among new leaves again.