:: Article

Fleet ii

By Paul Holman.

fleet ii

By Paul Holman.

      how many springs arise
         within a hollow

     landscape where some lord
           of the high places
          impregnated cattle
         before descending
       in human form
                     to reign
          at the junction
      of green parishes in
       meadows now fringed
       by houses which concealed
             all trace of
      chapel and
                 oak at
    this site a friend not
       a follower of Christ
        maintained the gospel
          to be Roman cant
       preached a more
   oblique system such
   observances as the veneration
             of antlers had
        been effaced
                     to suit
         the resurrection
      of kings yet continued
         in secluded neighbourhoods
                between which
          the children carried
           no weatherbeaten
           patched saint
     but ranged in the character
             of deer on account
            of this visitation
           the chatelaine of
         the forest could
      declare the souls of boar
            and wolf to be

       dangerous to a faith
        that led Adam and Eve
          to couple in disgust
           for the entertainment
                a minister
       who cursed the irregular
            and clandestine
        publication of their history
                 by means of

         a ceremony which
      few observed in a garden
           of mineral springs
          next to that of
      lonely drinking
  then performed
                 works of
      a holy character
   rising from some parallel
         stream to the
   establishment attended
      by conflict with
   the state in loss
 the primitive
               body is supposed
            to possess formidable
              virtues the miraculous
         hung in smoke its
       likeness never faded
        in decay but was
           from a treatise
       of no value to most who
           belonged to the company
               that followed

         Oldcastle from prison
           into the great oven
           the milk of Black Mary
              flowing with the waters
                  of the brook
           under a wooden
      foot-bridge and on
     beneath the arches of
       the Temple an inscription
        and barbarous queens
         who suffered death
        yet exist within a
       deep chasm having

     been deprived of all
      prestige in maze and
       amphitheatre one
    sister rising to
          the citie menaced
        by famous squadrons
        a sign drawn in
    fire-works by the council
          of beggars and gamesters
               against every
         manner of masters
           curiously substantial
             appearance of
       a spy in the museum
       of dust and archaic
       refuse where
the accumulated traces
   of a
        former culture
   allude to nothing more
      than the corrupted
     name of Jerusalem both
        vine-yard and fish-pond
              site favourable
          to mysteries that
        supersede the miracles
           performed in an
       open street with

    the characteristic
   gallantry of demons
   they do not howl at the
       gross comedy of death
         but make sport
       the consolers bearing
         a testament of
    the slain lamb before
      its skinners and
   crying out in
                 spite of
      a passion for obedience
          that made them
     express regret at so
             an illustration
         of their unease
     as they stood in the presence
               of a corpse
       under Blackfriars
     Bridge sliding naked
           silt and filth
      the inhabitants
  of the Fleet renewed the
       discreet but troubling

          power which once
       existed in that burnt and
             break-neck friend
           whose misery
    was treated as
                   some cruel
          device of angels
       by the immortal wardens

           of this stream


[Author photo by Paul Lambert, pictures of the lost River Fleet by Rich Cutler]


Paul Holman has been engaged for some twenty years upon The Memory of the Drift, a shifting but ultimately circular work which is both a record of operations and a process in itself.

Four previously issued sections were gathered in paperback by Shearsman Books in 2007: much of the writing he made for the project in the 2000s was first published on the Great Works website, and is still archived there.  His new book, Tara Morgana, is now available from Scarlet Imprint.

He is currently working on a modern emblem book, and a gallery project, in collaboration with the photographer Rich Cutler, on the lost River Fleet, of which this is the text.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, January 29th, 2017.