Borrowdale

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A kind of darkness; leaf mould, mist

Dank and rich, water sluicing mud

Into pathways, staining walkers’ pants,

Capillary action dampening

The spirits of all who pass. The dark

Seeps into the hotels; the heavy

Mansions weighed down with the sweet comfort

Of the middle people – middle aged,

Middle class, Werther’s originals.

Yes, it was weight more than a darkness,

Not ominous, more heavy, dense,

Over rich, sugar saturated.

It required the openness, wind blown

Heights, rock faces of adventure, seen

Between the thick foliage below,

As if the drama of the mountains

Sprang out of the valley’s rich brocade.

For me, freedom comes on the bare rock ridge,

The barren fields of summit boulders,

Looking down on the coach bound trippers

Who cling to the deep hued luxury,

The chocolate filled lounges, the heart strewn

Gift shops and carefully staged viewpoints,

Who bask in the closeness of people

Whilst we nod, shy in our solitude.

The heavy stone and lush gardens may

Be to me like Christmas Day after

The turkey dinner with a blazing fire,

Paralysed in a fug of family,

But the summit ridge needs the valley,

Its colour, its promise of comfort.

The Turning Point

 

On the Coast to Coast walk 16 years ago, I wrote a poem about a place where my mood changed from the difficult start at a time of personal difficulty. I returned to the same spot a couple of years ago and wrote this……

Is this the Autumn of my years?

Returning on a grey day

To a memory of sunlight,

To where the stream twinkled

And the sun painted

A floral celebration.

 

Now the clouds gather,

The light reduces the view

To facts; and the dreams

Are consigned to the imperfect

Tense, no less real

In their way but flat, gone.

 

The stream marks its indifference,

Moving to a different timescale,

Mocking our contentions

Locked in the instant, blind

To the eternal mysteries

Of millennial breaths.

 

Behind the astigmatic blur

Conjured up in tired eyes

By the gathered mists

Suspended around imagined peaks,

The sunlight strains for presence

Tempting the grey with beauty.

 

I scan a wall built from hunger

With a job to do- imperfect

For sure, counterpoint to the fells,

Noticed only in general,

A kind of compromise

Reached with the timeless hills.

 

But I see, by a gate, hidden

From sunshine, an engraved stone;

It marks a memory

Laid to rest on a field without note,

A fact it is, a death, gone

But shaped into the landscape.

Holiday’s End

As the picture postcard landscape
The place of adventure
Gets pulled from me by the scrape
Of motorway traffic;
As the glamour of money
Displayed on the lakeshore
Distorts, dissolves in the running
Drizzle on the windscreen;
As the ache of stretched muscle
Turns to travel fatigue;
The freshness of the fellside tussle
Becomes stale conditioned air;
My life just for a moment
Is grey, pallid, dreary;
An obligation, no cogent
Purpose, a toneless grunt.
The journey home seems to cross
A desert, wilderness,
Grinding the soul so we see
Our life engraved with past pleasures.

Sellafield

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Is it only in a land of such quiet
Poverty, with a past of marginal
Significance to this glittering age,
That this dark modernism could be built?
Men here accepted the bad bargains
Necessary for some kind of living –
The death dealing pit shafts and their lethal
Clouds of dust and gas; the wind swept waiting
In bitter cold for soups boiled from the bones
Of skinny sheep; the sea harvests garnered
In the teeth of gales, paid for with the drowned
Fathers and husbands. Where else to construct
The silent invisible source of heat
That must be interred for generations,
Poised on the brink of destruction, pulsing?
Where else to fashion a monstrous tower,
In defiance of the lyrical crags
Of the Lakes; in a two-fingered gesture
To the tree framed rapture of fold and fell
Stretching eastward, back turned to this squalor.

Fell Foot Park – a confession

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There, it is lake
Unmistakeably so –
Expansive and open
To the games played
On its complacency.
There it is river
Its purpose stated
For all to see,
Directed and in dialogue
With the resisting banks.
Here it is neither –
Or both rather,
The inexorable drive
Lurking hidden
Below the posing surface.
It is the end of something –
And the start; at the mercy
Of a larger landscape,
But still caressed
By the waving reeds.

 

The birth in the thrill
Of mountain peaks,
Tumbling falls,
Storms and the cry of ravens,
Is long forgotten.
To come is the mystery
Of immersion in the salt
Of endless seas,
The transformation
That cannot be known.