Mervyn Linford - Poet   


The Cambridge Lodes
by Neil Leadbeater

run eye-to-eye to infinity
low-level markers for river-runs
deep ditches in still places
blue-green algae in summer scums
whose rheens are all that remains
of nineteenth century industrial power
that once raised amazing weights
fifty tons a minute…
imagine the force in that.

At Bottisham, between Slades Farm
and a disused railway bridge
never wide enough for a fen lighter
but good for smaller craft
a chamber is all that remains.
You have to imagine the flashlock,
the timber guillotine gate,
a winding drum and a winding wheel
cogwheels with ratchets –
all the paraphernalia
that made it possible
for the passage of goods
to cut through the fens.

Here, streams slippery as eels
are hemmed in on either side
running between embankments –
communities of carr and sedge,
corridors for damselflies
pockets of gibbous duckweed
water mites for miles.
Pepys Calls in the Joiner

Together, “with great pains”
they make presses to house his books
because he’s tired of seeing them lying about
reclining in his chairs.
It is July 1666 and I imagine
unbroken sun
streaming into his rooms
so that you can see into the middle distance
dust motes thick as thieves
two people stumbling about
attempting to restore some order:
trees, wood and paper
foremost on their minds.
It was the start of Library Furniture -
nothing less than
breakfront bookcases
in which a gentleman could display
his highly prized bindings
for others to admire –
not chiffoniers, smaller and lower,
to stand in other rooms…
nothing grand
in boulle marquetry -
nor did it have adjustable shelving
or stand with matching counterparts
flush against his walls.

Winter evenings
I see his rooms lit by candles –
hands busy with books
sorting as to size.
Neatness was his purpose,
not subject matter
or author.
Dewey Decimal was a long way off
and cataloguing
not yet on the cards.