What was it made them
Clamber up the mountain;
Risk their existence;
Mine the greensand?

How did they know
To search the summit,
Hunt the highest
Reaches of the sky?

Where was the value
Of axes chipped and polished;
Roughed out with granite
Knapped to a knife edge?

Who could imagine
Their travels from home,
In curragh or logboat
Fur boot or mule?

How did we discover
This hoard beyond value –
Amongst scree and rockfall
On the edge of the void?

On the Langdale hand axe site


The rim of the void
Circled the vent hole
With aerated rock; light
From where sulphurous gas
Spewed out its toxic breath,
On goat herds and shielings,
Wharves and warehouses.

Ochre red slopes,
Where old sandstones
Melted and mixed
In slumped flows of puthering lava…
Layer on layer on layer,
Pillows and mounds, one on next
Candy floss striations.

Decades on, pilgrims
Step still tentatively;
Rough trails,
Snake above the abyss
Children shriek with
Pyroclastic fear, yet
The crater lies inert;

Erupting only with spurge and agave,
And rocks arranged
By the hardier explorer
Into timeless signs:
“Maria y Manu”
“Hot Stuff”
And a giant, lithic, cock.


Shaggy-coated, draped
Like a shabby student throw
Used as wall art; feather
Duster-ends to streaked wings
Folded in, double-backed,
Used but for balance.

Long-fringed; twitching eyes;
Articulate toes, grip the river-edge,
High-kneed, deliberate strides,
Avoid the trip wires; trigger alarms;
His reflection, his shadow;
Exist only in another plane.

Below, winding fish shoals
Edge closer to the bank,
Attracted by the briny aeration
Of a stream crackling down rocks;
They are observed,
With detached focus.

The spear-point head retracts;
The neck, curved yet taught;
The prey… oblivious.


Dust devil

Igneous dust and grit,
Whorled and whipped into shape
By offshore breeze
And this scrubby patch
Of unbuilt pre-development –

The roads laid out;
Kerbs positioned;
Lines painted on
Chin-smooth asphalt
Waiting for the money.

Shoppers carry on as normal.
One in a shawl-cum-kaftan
Thing, with cork-soled mules, wheels
A misbehaving trolley;
Revels through an air-con curtain:

Relief. Sun drums incessantly,
Whitewashed walls reflect,
Azure plunge pools refract,
As these dust Gods dance and snake
Below the temple of the volcano

Ignored, as we flow
Towards oblivion.


The whipping wind gathered strength,
Armed itself with razor blades,
Sheared off jags of ice and rock
Flaying in the wind,
A cat o’ nine tails, of ruthless erosion.

Buried deep in the snout of this duvet of ice –
Boulders the size of buildings;
Mountain sides snatched from source,
Children from the crib –
The weapons of war; to grind and scrape.

As the ice fled,
Its rearguard wax and wane,
Back to its Corrie-home
Left the boulder-litter
Strewn across the plain –

Coddled in ice,
Smothered by dirt
Waiting to breathe the air again.

With time – collapse;
Warmth returned;
Ice passed;
Rock fell;
Chasms opened –

The land, strewn with pot holes
And pits; craters and fractures;
Water filled; trees rose
A pock-marked land of lakes
A plain of a thousand meres.