Sloshing through the chalk stream
Barefooted; clear waters run shallow
Flint barbs glint; these sward-sharp cobbles
Washed clean of sand; crows circle above
The white cups of crowfoot below.
Where Lower Byrom meets Great John,
Flaked tarmac, shredded by spinning rubber,
Lanc rain and the soles of endless souls,
Reveal sparking setts, peaking once more
At the grey northern sun.
Up on the Needwood plateau,
Long roads, straight as a rule-edge
Dip and climb through ancient forest shards
The Enclosure-roads are tired now
Old granite pavers smile out, remembering
On the posh estate, behind pig-iron gates
Fantails, peacocking like on Continental plazas
Spring forth; not for us, this fancy-dandy –
Spouting like a soda stream –
Just a snicket, toed-in and true.
On the Square though, are the real thing
Fished from streams; dug from fields
Where once the glaciers flowed –
Glassy in the rain, glossy in the dry;
Twisting ankles on their rounded backs.
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.
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 –
Minding the mire, the bog,
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.