1881 c/o Erik Kennedy

The public streets, the private houses—all
are lit as if they lived inside the Internet.
But there are horses in the public streets,
and in the private houses lurks the whooping cough,
and at the Star in Church Street is a man
who says he fought against Napoleon. Perhaps he did.
For this is Godalming in 1881.

Two waterwheels are powered by the Wey
and drive a generator. This is how the town
can buy and use its electricity,
which no city or town has ever done before.
The streets are bright. The lanes are dimly bright.
The parlours are as bright as father can afford to make them.
For this is Godalming in 1881.

The quality of light, the quality
of life . . . a popular elision, but a good one.
The light is valued for its truthiness.
The light is mother of the truth. The empire grows
like a maturing star, or so it thinks.
A good thing happens here because it’s meant to happen here.
For this is Godalming in 1881.