Something lifts its head,
as i enter this clearing.
Something I cannot see, that has
neither pelt nor feather
nor moss on its back,
something that can step
from one daleside to another
quicker than a cloud.
Something that lives
around the edges of a name
has sniffed any hesitation
and moved in the space between heartleaps
to another humaniess elsewhere.
Another's descending hand
strokes the wood of the banister.
Another's eyes look out upon
the trees, the river and the castle.
They have torn out the ceilings
to open up the loft.
You are on the other side of the world
with children who will never see this,
never connect with cool memories
of rooks in a ploughed field
or a house dense as stone
with the absence of a family.
And when you return to find
no familiar face in street or pub
you know that you are crossing
a field called indifference,
where the cold uncomplicated river runs
desperate for the certain sea,
where apples in lost orchards fall
to bruising in the unkept grass.
You are not a fish, boy.
You cannot breathe a river,
Last night's rain
comes rioting downstream,
mad for the sea and roaring.
So do not step onto that grey stone
where the falls divide.
The water will get you
if the helicopter doesn't.
It will batter your head
against the buttress of the bridge.
It will make you drink
its gritty spirit.
Your mother will cry.
Your father will break his rod.
Why don't you listen
to the weather forecast?
He is lowered on a rope
down a hole in the ground.
They give him a candle and his drum.
We'll follow your beat, say the soldiers
till you find us our silver and gold.
So far they hear him and follow.
So far his beat comes up clear
through cobble and rock and soil.
So far and no further.
He's gone then for ever,
like a Jonah dissolving
in the belly of a whale.
Like a little Christ
who will never return.
It's always some dunce or
who finds the ancient king
and all his sleepers
under a hill or heap of ruins.
And he always wakes them by mistake
then flees in fright
and can't find his way back
so the rest of his life
is a bag of regrets.
If you were my children
I'd tell you that story
again and again.
I was coming up to love
descending first to the river's elbow
where the pebble path led to a gash
of mossy limestone and dripping waters.
Then I'd cut steeply upward
through the many-centuried trees
and their outbreak of roots
to level with rooftops
and the slow smoke chimneys.
Sometimes I climbed with books and gifts,
sometimes just with the fuel
of youth's translucent energies
expending through my blood
as if each cell had coined your face
and made me rich.
I pushed till my legs burned and the
jumped in my throat and the blood
clicked so hard through its gates
I could hear it in any head.
And clearing the treeline
I'd come to the final field that lay
glistering in the early sun,
where, ankle-deep in grass and
I could see my journey half-done,
the town beneath me and the sky
in front with all its promise
of daytime cloud or clear
and evening's unbelievable stars.
I climbed always hoping to find you
disappointed often and lucky sometimes
to catch you before your daily
arriving half out of breath
to taste your first kiss,
your ascending boy, smiling silly,
his shoes all yellow-wet with pollen.