The dictionary defines viaduct
as a structure which carries a railway
or road over a valley. But to me
viaduct is the reddish arches beside
Pymmes Brook, the cathedral aisle which slopes
upwards past the hedge of the bowling green
and the tennis courts, the slants of sunlight on walls,
on earth floors. The viaduct is guardian
of Snake Island where my child paddled
deep into imagination, it’s keeper
of the park where I walk to renew myself,
where yesterday I passed the flamboyant red
of an autumn sycamore, saw whirling dots
of starlings settle in an oak that at once
became a singing tree, each bird
a note on the stave of twigs.
I will never strip
the viaduct to its bare facts: the height
of its arches, dirty pink patches on bricks,
or even the stains from water trickles though
they resemble tears. It would lose meaning
like a face with perfect features does
if it’s blank, without context.
Think of the image
of Vivien Leigh as Aurora in long folds
of a gown rising through the fluff of mist,
a swan’s wing of cloud behind her head,
her sweet downward eyes, the white garland
on her dark hair, one arm upraised, the other
stretched out as if to offer us the day.
The man who created this vision believed
suggestion was everything. He would never
have reduced a filmstar to the flesh and bones
of a woman who is ill and depressed.
with him the passion for a greater reality:
the vision of that goddess promising dawn,
the purplish blur of the viaduct’s bricks
at dusk, the invisible rumble it carries
when little squares of light threading the darkness
bring me news that day is about to break.
(The photographer of Vivien Leigh was Angus McBean)