About David Preston

Brand expert; beer enthusiast; outdoorsman; fell wanderer; writer; observer of things; lover of puns

Pogles’ Wood

Viciously precarious,
The descent from the church.
Sandstone slabs, worn away in whorls
Always sported a 5 o’clock shadow
Of moss, like it’s cool, right
Old gravestones, laid flat
Names scuffed off,
From worker’s clogs and flint hard seggs;
And on the hill, the cobbles –
Most places have grubbed them up
Or covered them over, endless coats
Gravel, tarmac, slabs – not here.
And all it took, a greasy summer shower,
Motor oil’s incessant dirty drips,
Sump leakage from Austin 7s or the fleet
Of Mr Williams’ Peugeot 505s –
Barking and hacking
Gauloises smoking devotees, spitting,
And you’d slide, arse over tit
Down the bank to the brook.
There, the straight route back
Left up the horse-track,
By the old mill pool, even then,
Well past its good days.
You knew you were there,
When the gable of the Haunted Manor
Poked above the brambles.
Pogles’ Wood: a fearful scrub
Of skin rubbing, flesh scoring madness,
Your deepest dreads
Lived out there.
Heading round,
Past the graffiti (‘Mod Wankers!’)
Pushing through bright shards of angelica
Stinking garlic, brush-laurel
You’d soon be lost…
Enfolded, shrouded, swallowed whole –
Natural senses, compass, gone.
As the magnetic chaos, the veil of darkness
Pulled you deeper.
Flailing, whirling arms, gaunt-mouthed
Panicked running; the only hope –
Uphill! Uphill!
Minding the mire, the bog,
High ground!
Until hope was restored
A distant bugle call…

It’s gone now, the wood.
The scrub and fen no match
For bawling chainsaw and wheezing diggers.
Drive there though
Up the Old Mill Road
And I still hear it, that reveille
Son! Get home! Tea’s up.

The Shed on the Heath

They built the Church high,
It’s spire, vertiginous, topped out
By a copper cross, a weather vane
And a lightning rod
To bring to these people
Of the Heath – these Heath’ens
Illumination;
Salvation – of sorts.
But they did not need the divine.
These people brought all they had –
Years of back-break
Arm ache; straining graft,
Salt-smeared perspiration;
Smith-beaten tools, rough, forceful;
Pig-smelt ploughs, dimpled and course
Folding and turning,
Folding and turning,
This poor earth;
God’s acre – only if God valued
Weed-ridden, sand leached
Harrowed land.

My grandfather dug this till,
Enriching it with more than horse muck,
His, a quiet humour –
A gentle laugh –
Quizzical fingers, making,
Doing, mending, meddling.
His plot, L shaped, rising,
Had four sheds –
Now, years later, three have gone –
Lost to the wreckers, land-pirates;
The blackthorn, taller now than he was,
Enveloped them, like the tentacles
Of some gothic beast
In a Lovecraft horror – devoured.

Up the top though
Remains the ‘engine’ shed
Brim full of mowers, and shredders
A hand-plough, scythe,
An adse, beat from a pane hammer
Two vices – made before Miami
Was conceived –
Bags of fertiliser – before bomb makers
Threatened us –
Oil drums, beer crates,
Sieves and drills,
Ladders and mattocks;
Car parts saved, ‘Just in case’
Old window frames, cut to shape,
Might be useful’;

And there, in the back, hidden
Behind half a flymo,
An old handbag
Full of spanners,
A small sideboard,
Good to go,
And bits of an engine
From a Suffolk Punch,
Is a crumbling sack –
Treasure – faded, dusty, sure,
But priceless all the same –
Crumbling now, as the years erode –
Memories, memories.

Where the wildings are

On the scrubland, up by the pool
Is a hedge, bird-planted,
Irregular, gnarled, bowing –
Part-clipped by passing walkers,
Rubbing shoulders with dangling limbs
Of dappled haw and speared blackthorn;
And just where the path forks,
Where the blackbirds forage,
Is a runt of a tree –
Contorted twigs,
Rucked-up bark,
Leaves, blotched and marked –
Feral street kids
Searching for favour
Amongst the big lads.
Yet the fruit shines as it falls now,
Some glossy where it’s smiled at the sun,
More, lime green and bashful
Most, tumbled and fallen,
Littering the path – a cider-mulch
Sweet like Valhalla’s mead –
The only Gods here, the hawk moths
And feasting crows.
No orchard this –
No tending, nor pruning,
No skirting, nor grafting –
Just the illicit love children
Of a discarded Orange Pippin
And – who knows? Perhaps noble lineage
A Foxwhelp or Peasgood’s Nonsuch?
For now though, these bastard children,
These wildings, rule the republic
Unhampered.

Reynard

Sunday evening
Big lumps of rain, pounding pavements
Like Coppers’ soles, big and flat and constant
Big lumps of rain, pounding fields
Greening up, imperceptibly, persistently.
Now though, an ominous ink grey sky
Held in a stand-off –
An atmospheric arm-wrestle,
Muscling it, with a bright arc of French blue.

Alive, vivid, sharp.

Under my fat-tyred wheels,
The ground sprung back,
Mildly compliant;
Ever-so forgiving as it often is
After rain,
But the bones underneath
Remained, still there, resisting,
Calcium peas under an earthen mattress.

Alive, vivid, sharp.

Beyond the hedge,
Lambs wobbled inquisitively,
Learning life in momentary revolutions
The bones above, growing;
Mothers attentive,
Upended snake eyes,
Warily watching.

Alive, vivid, sharp.

Sharp, for Reynard.
A beacon of brightness moving uphill –
His coat, flame bright,
His brush, darkening to burnt caramel,
His form, iridescent in the evening light
The pre-storm light illuminating him
Blinking bright, under a spot bulb,
Bright teeth, bright smile,
Bright future.

 

The Beer Tribe

He, louchely lounging,
Sweltering heat; sweltering beards
Loose-hanging camo vests,
Close-cut leggings, thigh slashed –
Beany hat, woolily cool,
Arms braided with tatts, Pictish hero…
Or urban warrior?
She, pierced beyond Brosnan,
Flip-flops in winter,
Hair dyed in Nu-Age Violet
Tied back in a tie-dyed sling,
Fresh from slaying Goliath
Yet this bar lives; pulses
To rhythms of the Veldt –
And the beers, their menagerie:
Little Creatures, Queen of the Night,
Raging Bitch, Flying Dog,
Moose Fang, Holy Cowbell,
And the poor, rag-tag Dead Pony
Rule the roost here.
And you’re not welcome:
Sly looks, knowing grins quickly concealed.
You, with your shaved chin and slim cut jeans –
You, with short-sleeved shirt and smart sneakers –
Cost a pretty penny but not a penny well spent
In their eyes.
Their eyes betray condescension
Their eyes are only
For the ‘in’ crowd, the beer crowd –
Their eyes lap up uncrafted craftiness;
A beacon of their anti-individualism.
Their eyes betray them
Sucking up; hoovering up
Their unspoken conformity.

Jurassic, lark

Not many days it takes
Of a life measured in billions,
For the rain-swamped earth
All plashy and sodden –
Verdant and plumped –
To crackle and split;
Patterned ground, polygonally divided
Moisture sweated out –
Mud transformed –
Pulled in drum-tight
To make nature’s hexagons.

The sound of the lapwing, trilling
arrr-rit at rit at rit
And the lark –
More pterodactyl than passerine –
Swoops vertiginously up high;
Not the only threads it seems
Back to a lost world; Pangaea, Gondwana –
Broken bracken; thick banks of nettle
Cow parsley, hazel, ivy –
Swiped and flattened
Beaten and brashed –
And below, stamped in the earth,
The mystery –
A transient fossil, a brand of sorts –
Man? Beast? Monster?

Slide1

Uprooted

When the storm cut through, it cut;
Not a samurai-sharp, clean, incisive cut –
But blunt, deep, savage – butcher’s cuts
Cleaving and sawing, to and fro
Until the job was done.
It raced, the wind. It raced and grabbed.
Laughing, it grappled the trees –
Like a fatigued father, numb through insolence
Shaking a child; but no remorse – just brutish joy.
It took without mercy; pitilessly and persistently;
Saplings, vibrant with the life of warming days, slapped down.
Adolescents, lippy with age, put in their place;
And the wise old ones, their wisdom scattered.
Uprooted, lost.
And we pick up the pieces now.
The old wall, tumbled, can be repaired.
The car, rippled with dents, ironed out.
The windbreak of youthful poplars, replanted.
But the lament of the wild runs deeper –
Baleful calls; grey-eyed mournfulness
Families destroyed,
And lives
Uprooted.

Uprooted

Mating calls

The shrill penetrating attack of a Greenfinch
Insistent, urgent, agitated – calls for a lost love up above.
In the hedgerow, the calmer, bass, wooing
Chitter-chat of a love-struck Great Tit.
Away, under a straggly drooping laurel,
The guttural, dirty laughter of flirting pheasants;
And in the distance, the boorish, drone
Of a chainsaw; tediously barking the mating call
Of extinction.

Takeaways

Them damn magpies.
When they’re not nicking diamonds
Or pearls or some such trinkets,
They’re squabbling over scraps.
Gabbling with their angular voices.
Chock-a-lock; arrk-chak-chak.

Wrangling, over styrofoam chips,
Or batter and bits soaked in gravy.
Bickering, over seed pod cereal bars,
Or platinum-edged gum wrappers.
Nit-picking over feast-details;
Feuding over takeaways.

Dead Man’s Handle

It was supposed to protect them.

Depressed, every sixty seconds on that long, long line.
A firm push, a clunk, timer re set;
Every sixty seconds:
Push. Clunk. Tick.

But he fell asleep at the wheel –
(So to speak; there’s no wheel on a train,
Except underneath)
Fell asleep and fell forwards.

The handle was supposed to protect them
But he fell, head first.
And as the train rocked and rolled along the bumpy track
The handle imprinted itself into his forehead.

The head on his lifeless body gently rose and fell.
Push. Clunk. Tick.
Every sixty seconds.
Until they careered through the buffers

And into a graveyard.