I met you in Magnetic Fields
I felt your heat, you turned me on
You plugged me in, you held my heart
We walked in pylon forests
honeymooned in solar farms
upturned flower faces kissing us with bolts of sunshine
the hills beyond reflected in the their powerful gaze
Such a year, they said, for the electric crop
a harvest for a million billion gadgets
plucked to the ether like everlasting fruit
You’d sing to me down the wires like a cricket
we’d swim the currents reveling in the waves of sound
you pulsed my boat
I gave you sparks
It didn’t last: the lightning came
you wanted north
I needed south
It blew our fuse
You pulled the plug and broke our circuit
I lost your face in Father Thames
yearned for it lit again by an electric moon
But the lights had dimmed, and all was dark
Astrid Sutton Sharkey
Science and Art on the Thames
Teenage years, memories of compulsory choices, Science or Art? No contest for me, and no connection between the two. For me the creativity and colour of Art, not the conformity and drabness of Science.
Teenage years, memories of another battle with my disconnected mother, in her constant war to diminish me.
“Is there anything between your ears?” she snarled.
I wish I could have answered her then what I know now.
“Yes mother, there is a whole world between my ears. My left ear hears Impressionistic voices. They, like Faraday with his magnetic iron filings, create form and meaning from swirling dots and patterns. Breaking solid form down into atoms, then building up again into colour, atmosphere and life. They have brought me joy in my seeing.
My right ear hears the words of poets. They have brought me news of life and death, the screech of circling seagulls, the lapping of wakes on the Thames foreshore, and shared with me enjoyment of the past, present and future of this great city of ours. They have brought me joy in my listening.”
And in between is the rest of my life. This mighty river, sometimes fetid, sometimes clear, sometimes lively, sometimes slack, ever changing.
And life has bought me understanding of connections between science and art, between myself and the world. As I walk across the bridge between my ears I assess the London skyline. The eternal elegance of St Pauls. The drama of the modern usurpers of the misty horizon. Science has made these structures possible. Art can make them beautiful, if it is allowed to.
Science and scientists built this bridge, I acknowledge their gift. But it is artists who can turn a place of cold grey stone in cold grey weather into a scene of atmospheric beauty. And they can turn it into a place of romance, where Terry and Julie cross over the river, feeling safe and sound as they gaze at the Waterloo sunset, taking them to paradise.
Rivers can connect and disconnect, unite and divide, transport and obstruct.
Are creative writers like the scientist Faraday, bravely experimenting with unknown elements in the hope that something will connect?
The Poetry library displays a leaflet about Pashto Landays, rhyming two-line couplets of 22 syllables. My right ear says:
“Why not experiment?”
“I’m north of the Thames. I never go south.
Yet the south bank winds lovely to the river’s mouth.”
Jenny 3 November 2015
The water looks so still, ripples playing on the surface, but below this calm the current is heaving and tugging. Please watch out! Whilst living in the ‘Smiling Coast’ of West Africa I used to watch families sit by the shore, waiting by the rocks; waiting for days on end. They sigh quietly and they pray, all the while hoping that, inshallah, their child who had been giggling playfully in the sea, as children do, will eventually re-emerge, churned up and spewed out by the insatiably rapacious and deadly waves. On the River Thames boats carry swarms of tourists, people with destinations and attractions to go to, and on the bridge that connects the two shores a musician is playing an African salsa on his steel drum against the rumbling soundscape of a train passing by. Across the farthest shore and along the winding, dwindling river, at the furthermost village in The Gambia, Makalo sits on a rock, dangling his feet in the cool waters with the gentlest of waves kissing his feet. He sits chewing on his stick and against a soundscape of twittering, chattering birds Makalo is dreaming the same dream, and each day it imprints an indelible vision upon his mind so that in the way we might remember our past, Makalo is remembering his future. It is all connected. Throw a pebble into the water and the waves ripple outward, the ebb and flow slowly corroding the edges of the shore and wearing away what was once a concrete reality. I saw a photo of an emaciated polar bear clinging to a jagged rock of ice. Who would have thought? But there are five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean and their chance of survival far outweighs the bears. In the Saharan desert the skeleton of a camel lies on the sand. Nothing else remains except for a bezoar, a completely solidified mound of plastic lying where the stomach would have been. Who would have thought? But 50% of all camels living in the desert die from eating plastic bags. The chances of survival are slim. As the days become a dream of reality and the reality is the dream, Makalo makes his way to Libya where he works for a year on the roads until he is finally able to pay for a passage on a large wooden boat that will travel to Italy where he hopes to forge his future. Whilst he dreams of sending money back to his family his mother pulls the bucket of water out of the well and his little sisters run barefoot through the compound. Makalo is traveling to his destination, knowing that this is his destiny. He drowns on the passage as the hungry waves consume the boat like a whale swallows krill. Makalo is one of the ‘swarm’. Who would have thought?