Otley Only Prize – Nick Allen

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not river

but   this is not river
this morning   this is not river
all this mudflat and estuary
all this tributary and sky
with its ancient light
gathered by the gradient of years
all the way to here

and   if the sun rises
then the ragged squadron of gulls
balanced at their sleep
will lift haphazard
throwing long their shadows
across the sheen of this
looking glass mud

still   this is not river
this is salt land
it is heron holm and swan roost
it is a cup of time   collected
it is the spill
of night never quite leaving
it is day unleavened

later   a lone owl weaves
soft death across the loom
of these flats
black taloned thread
after black taloned thread
until twilight is tapestried
with silent hunting

still   it is not river
this gloaming is not river
but the outpushing of used up land
onto mudflat and estuary
a leaching of light from day
the flushing of hill and of bay
it is rain gathering to start again

and   if there is a noise
it is only the wind
walking home for the night

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