The fourth in a series of pieces written to photographs taken byNicholas James Seatonon our autumn/winter 2013 shoot in Canada. Each focuses on an element, albeit a non-traditional kind.

By Nat Lucas.

Where once slipped burnished reflections in silver-grey, the flash of a passing express or arrows of geese rising up from the river, now laps the canker of rust. Bound unwillingly on steel framed beds these colours chime with autumn hues and vie to shrug their spore onto a careless passing sleeve. Illustrious names weep together - burnt orange, yellow ochre and cadmium red, shackled in a mottled bruise.

Derricks gaze sightlessly into water; shoulders hunched against the bite like king penguins taking turns at the edge of an ice locked huddle. Cold chilled they sweat and wait, mustered at the command of ghost squads of stevedores. Hamstrung by rust they will swing and hoist no more.

Exposure hastens the rasping tongue of corrosion, the weakening flakes and slow dull notes of fatigue. Singing cables whipping above the festooned pier turn brittle when the bulbs go out and folds of litter bag the shore. Emasculated rivets drop unheard from the underbelly of the pontoon.

The transcendent form of Hart Crane's The Bridge(1930) seems the stuff of fables from these bashed and fettered sheets:

And Thee, across the harbour, silver-paced

As though the sun took step of thee, yet left

Some motion ever unspent in thy stride, -

The manufacturing heartland is strapped into a rust belt. Pounding, flaming cities shrink to arid necropolises for machine tools stripped of salvageable parts. Rust blooms over conical towers, the past proud spires of factory husks, while vegetation hastens to reclaim old ground. Crowds shuttle in to stare toothlessly at the ruins. Decay tourism' has set up its stall.

Metal memories are embedded in each one of these thousand shallow rough bubbles. Darker stains describe the best of times. Tremulous chariots for three point turns, mobile sanctuary for courting teens, are stacked wrecked shadows. Worn out, but held in fond regard, weathered in human harness unlike those cloud bothering, plunging elevatored monoliths.

To read the other pieces in our Element series, click here.

Excerpt fromThe Bridgeby Hart Crane 1899 1932. Published 1930, Black Sun Press.

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