Poem: Mudlarking

Delighted to share this video from Muddy Feet Poetry. This was an open mic slot at Boomerang.

I’m a licensed Mudlark, someone who searches the Thames foreshore for treasure. You need a licence for it, so don’t copy me – don’t go looking for treasure, leave it there for me – but I wanted to share the meditative strangeness of walking through a tidal archeological site. How Roman pottery mixes with crisp packets, and what it does to my sense of time, people and place. I’ve put a transcript below.

 

Mudlarking

Here the centuries churn and re-arrange
Here the world sorts itself anew
A peach pit
weighs the same as a pig’s tooth
weighs the same as a razor head
weighs the same as coal.

Here each tide conceals and releases
Here the Thames waves tinkle with ceramics and glass
As London’s detritus curates itself by substance:
A drift of terracotta,
of brick,
of bone

Mother of pearl gleams beside sweet wrappers
And glass shards iridescent with age

A tin soldier
weighs the same as a bullet
weighs the same as a brothel token
weighs the same as a ring

Time breaks down palaces and poor houses
Tumbles bricks to pebbles
Last week’s bottle tops nestle
With Roman drinking vessels
Golden Virginia packets float above
Georgian pipe bowls

Time turns each century’s trash to treasure
As Thames water both washes and pollutes
Turning up trainers and fossilised feces
Asbestos and golden thimbles

A mix tape
weighs the same as a feather
weighs the same as a syringe
weighs the same as seaweed

Each tide is a lottery of place and time
Will something precious be there?
Will you spot it from the mud and stones?
And if your eye should find it:
Will you recognise what you see?

When it’s my time, scatter my ashes on the foreshore
Where the centuries churn and re-arrange
Where the world sorts itself anew
Where a coffin nail
weighs the same as a cloak pin
weighs the same as a fossil
weighs the same as a flint axe

Keep my ashes in the heart of the city,
Moving with the moon
Where ship ballast coral dances with delftware
And a bone shard
weighs the same as a seashell
weighs the same as a sequin
weighs the same as sea foam

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