the river’s suitcase
what do you keep in your suitcase? old man river
old man giver going knowing slowing oh-ing
unbuttoned unbuckled but buckling under
the weight of all your runaway stuff your
mudlarked luggage your lost not founds
your faceless TVs tugged tidal into tattered tears
tangling with tarpaulins terrapins tetrapod teeth
then half a sunset (or a Discovery apple)
and almost an entire orchestra — not that you’d
need instruments to serenade us. conman river
tiger-fleshed flasher stripper stripped to the bone
leg of mutton pile of buttons what are you stitching
with your hotel sewing kit missing the thread.
will you stitch the shores together then rip them
up again? you’re a cruel referee with your
Wembley whistle, carding the river yellow as Fanta
foaming fizzing frothing gagging with plastic.
rag-and-bone-man river you dirty fibber
Playboy Tolstoy long lost love letters leaking condoms
squished over the fins of put-out fish and surgical masks
and straws for sucking slivers of a silvered sky
and skiff blades and switchblades and salt.
far-from-home river immigrant river spat out
at Southend with your suitcase of trinkets your
unspeakable tongue and your badly forged papers
rippling back on yourself like a curse or a eel
or a uncaught catch on a battered old bag.
now tell me, river — where did you come from? no,