After winter’s blast, a gang of us swarms the banks of the Thames beneath a leaden sky, picking our way through mud contaminated with sewage, slippery and sucking at our boots. We wear our hungry faces like masks, our hands red and purple from the icy wind. Occasionally, a cry goes up as someone skids and slips towards the water.

My little brother, shivering in his thin jacket, grips my arm, hoping for a safe place to perch while I prod the mud for treasure: a brooch, a penny, a cracked clay pipe, to sell or exchange for a scrap of meat or fish for our supper.

Behind the skeleton of a rowing boat, the Rock cries out to us today: “You may stand upon me, but do not hide your face.”

We smile at each other, and I lift him onto the rock.

Kim M. Russell, 20th January 2020

Image result for mudlarking victorian"

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Prosery: “The Rock cries out…”

This Monday Frank T. is our barkeeper for another Prosery, a prompt to write nor more than – or exactly – 144 words of prose, using a given line from a poem.

Frank reminds us that the United States has been celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The line is from a poem inspired by him and written by Maya Angelou, ‘On the Pulse of Morning’:

“The Rock cries out to us today, You may stand upon me, But do not hide your face.”

32 thoughts on “Mudlarking

    1. Thank you. I’ve seen photographs of rag-pickers in other parts of the world and, until last year, thought that it was a part of London’s past. Then I heard about a book by a someone who mudlarks in present-day London, more an archaeologist.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I can see how it would be an archeological/research-like kind of thing to do in London (and along some other rivers and canals in Europe, perhaps). Rag-picking is still something some need to do to survive in less-developed countries, alas.
        This piece was very well done!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. In India and Africa and Mexico, even today, people scavenge for food and things to sell. The picture you used is great, and the story told is very complete, a step into the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. back in Victorian times, it was a way of life, a means of survival. There are people who mudlark today, although now it’s a hobby for would-be archaeologists. I’ve yet to read a book by a woman who mudlarks in London.


    1. Thank you, Viv!I wrote and posted the poem just before going to bed and didn’t realise until this morning that I’d typed in the wrong title – a possible Freudian slip? I’ve changed it now…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadly not yet, but they are trying. The photo is of Lucas, the day he was born, which I used to illustrate a haiku. I have my fingers crossed! 🙂


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