A way

One way is through the woods.
Light drips from the leaves
and floats in oozy layers
of air too thick to breathe.

Where the swaying greenness ends
the world dips and heaves
and rights itself. The air
is thinner, cooler on the hill.


After the first few drops
there’s the faint ringing sound
of rain on dry soil
and then that smell of earth’s quenching,
of the hill’s slaked drought.
A smell like a great laundering.

These walls

These drystone walls,
terrain for stoats
and empty fertiliser bags,
no longer listed
in title deeds,
seen only by
bank holiday birdwatchers
and lost German campers—
these walls
back into the hill
remind me more
and more of my poems.


Branches creak where there are no trees.
A cow grunts on a hillside with no cattle.
Voices laugh, a car door thuds shut,
the horn sounds lightly once and then the car moves off
along a road that doesn’t exist.

Noises on these glittering nights in December
circle the hill on wavelengths of moonlight and frost.


It can come down at any time.

I sit like a cold chrysalis
in my grey cocoon
and wait till it gives me back
my sight and my hearing.

When the mist clears
and I can walk again
I feel a freshness on the hill;
whatever the time of day
it feels like early morning.

Hill mist leaves a taste in your mouth,
a mingling of air and water and earth.

It can come down at any time.

Without warning it can come down
at any time, and without end.


Year after year the rains and the freezings and thawings
wash away layers of soil.
Gravel goes rattling down the flooded gullies.
When the land dries out at the end of May
more stone has been laid bare,
more knuckles and shoulder blades of stone
have broken through the hill
like bones from a hundred shallow graves.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 3 Number 6, on page 44
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