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At the bottom of the valley – here briefly
more gorge than valley – the ice age river
runs white and rapid. Deep in its narrow banks
rest the vast brick columns of the aqueduct
that carries, in a narrow cast iron canal,
one hundred and twenty seven feet above,
water from the river tapped upstream –
Thomas Telford’s genius, recognised
as one with the Statue of Liberty,
the Taj Mahal and the Acropolis
and become a stop for Japanese tourists.

Above the valley along the toll road
Telford built from Holyhead to London
is the scattered village developed and named
for the aqueduct – Froncysyllte* –
of a thousand souls at its zenith.

On the war memorial by the roadside
there are thirty six names – the first two
from the Boer War. Two small plaques list
the World War dead – and, between them, an ornate,
tiled drinking fountain (now dry) for the lads
lost on the high veld, one in battle,
the other from typhoid. The legend is
Parcher Y Dewr – ‘respect the brave’.
By chance or design, you would have had to
bow your head, when, at the turn of a tap,
the waters from ancient volcanoes
would spring into your mouth.


*Pronounced: Vron-cuss-ulth-teh.




© Copyright David Selzer
2 Responses
  • John Huddart
    November 6, 2015

    A water poem! The many incarnations of it spring through the poem, like the stuff itself. Like many of your poems, the journey starts with a traveller’s discourse, part Beidekker, part personal response, before leading us to a central reflection which focuses on the organising theme. Here the tragic ironies cascade, and conclude with a brilliant image that links ancient waters, volcanoes and refreshment. Perfect.

  • Clive Watkins
    November 19, 2015

    I know this place a little, David. Your poem brings back a particular memory. Strong and evocative conjunction…

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