The Secret Pages: Pont y Bermo

You dropped me off at Morfa Mawddach
so I could walk across the bridge at night:
a modest, unhazardous adventure.

I stepped from the causeway onto the deck,
a timber tight-rope – neither land nor sea –
slung between dark mountains fore and aft.

The sea ran gun-grey between the trestles,
giving them slaps in the long-running game
they have played since the eighteen-sixties,

when the Cambrian Railway blasted up the coast,
trailing Manchester House, Birmingham,
and Lewis Owen Evans Corn and Flour Merchant.

The day-lit view from the middle of the bridge,
hills, the river indecisive between sand bars,
would have knocked Ruskin into raptures

(were he not railing against the very viaduct).
I sensed, if not leviathan, giant cephalopods,
arms ranging from the chaotic waters.

And if not, then one of nature’s terrors,
or the failure of the fragile works of man
would plunge me, bridge and all, to drown.

All that while the railway ran on my left
and cars on the coast road played lighthouse
as they swung around the corner at Aberamffra.

I reached the cast-iron work of the swing bridge,
squatting above the deep channel to the harbour,
passed the darkened tollhouse, walked on down Piggy Row.


Manchester House: any haberdashers selling ‘Manchester’ goods, that is to say, textiles. Fragile works of man: yes, I know, but ‘works of personkind’ or ‘works of humanity’ are ugly and have no resonance with past writing. Piggy Row: our childhood nickname for Porkington Terrace, Barmouth.