THE great river has lost its Strauss-waltz glamour in this closely observed piece from W N Herbert's forthcoming twin-edition collection, Omnesia (Bloodaxe Books, £9.95 each).

Their title is a portmanteau word for omniscience and amnesia. There is much travelling and wit on show.

THE BROWN DANUBE

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On a floating platform being dragged

by a small reluctant boat

to a well-churched town, the name of which

I forget each time I 'm told it

rows of chairs are set out beneath

an awning and the blinding Serbian blue

as though this were a little theatre set adrift

or a cinema only showing one film:

'The River' - broad, brown,

endless and actorless, so

my fellow audience members leap up, snap,

attempt to fill the frame.

In the brow-prinkling, nose-pinking light

I watch the constant wooded banks

be punctuated here and there

by a half-sunk, slime-streaked dash

of rowboat, then a parting in the trees,

then a grey hem of pebbles.

Within the dark green shadow

there's a pale green hut and,

in front of this sufficiency,

a fisherman plays himself as

Expressionless Man with Bucket,

looking directly into the lens.