The Flood, the Seagull and the Rat

Screen_shot_2017-12-05_at_08.50.24by Patrick Howse25 Aug 2013

The Thames flows towards its highest tide, gently
Lapping over its banks from Hammersmith to Kew.
The river is determined, for now,

Not to flow to the sea, but to follow its tidal impulse
And make a lake of its floodplain.
Still the tide rises, the majestic water flowing
Unhurried, but with enormous force

The wrong way, upstream, suddenly recognisable
As an Amazon or a Nile separating Middlesex from Surrey.
Each minute each smug shore drifts further apart.

Gulls float on the body of the water, passively allowing
It to take them wherever it wishes.
One, her breast as white and fluffy as a kitten,
Her slate grey back as harsh as

A goose-stepping Prussian, catches
Something from the glinting silver-brown surface.
In her savage yellow bill she grips a rat.

She manoeuvres the wriggling body until the snout
Begins its jerky journey down the chasm-throat.
Now feeble pawing feet are on the brink,
The tail thrashing as the rat wonders

Whether this is quite the sort of dark
Passageway he fancies slipping down to explore.
With a Serengeti-wild abruptness he’s gone,

And the bright eye of the gull sparkles
As she bobs slightly lower in the water,
And preens with her razor beak
The imperfections from her self-satisfied feathers.

Appeased, the water slowly becomes still,
And Imperceptibly turns back
To flow to the sea.

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