By Sean O'Brien

Come for a walk down the river road,
For though you’re all a long time dead
The waters part to let us pass

The way we’d go on summer nights
In the times we were children
And thought we were lovers.

The river road led to the end of it all –
Stones and pale water, the lightship’s bell
And distance we never looked into.

A long time gone
And the river road with it.
No margin to keep us in mind.

For afterlife, only beginning, beginning,
Wide, dark waters that grow in the telling,
Where the river road carries us now.


From Sean O'Brien's The Drowned Book.

The Drowned Book is a work of memory, commemoration and loss, dominated by elegies for those the author has loved and admired. As the book unfolds, O'Brien's verse occupies an increasingly dark, subterranean territory - where the waters are rising, threatening to overwhelm and ruin the world above. 

Read novelist and poet Helen Dunmore's introduction to the Picador Classic edition of The Drowned Book here

'The poems take us to an underwater country, fitfully illuminated, mysterious, oozing out its secrets, with its own river roads and ‘infernal gloom’.'

Read 'Water-Gardens' from the collection.


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