from Homing (2004)

HOW THE MIRE THAWS

The way the water coalesces on the underside of ice,
drips off to form that tracery of frost we glimpse
below the surface linking blade to blade;

the way the sheep tracks – filled up first – freeze over
in the night, gloss mud to darkened, flesh-like textures
scarred in patches by the thaw;

the way it leaves meltwater like an afterthought
in pools, between the clumps of couch grass laced
through lines and fissures weakening the ice;

the way it clings, like broderie, low lying in the ruts,
the bletted hollows of the mire, maintaining shape
and pattern to the last;
                                   its breath, this mist.

 

THE COMMONPLACEThe jar will long retain the fragrance
of what it was steeped in when new.
Horace

They're there in every shipwreck,
every trench,
stacked in serried ranks or shattered

by some trauma in the past
that whispers in the ear,
the way the thumb prints round the rim

speak volumes lost
but surely close at hand;
like accident, ill fortune, clumsiness

all waiting round the corner,
hiding in a section under soil
the trowel has failed to pick away, the eye

has overlooked; as with this ship – caught out
upon a reef
low tide exposed so briefly

none had made the shout
in time – that foundered, took in water, sank
to lay upon these silted rocks

some planks, a larder, corked and sealed,
the commonplace,
the musk of honey, reek of resin, wine.

 

HOMING

Although the dyke would seem to point her back
to where the walk began,
she’s lost

until these swans wing into view, heading out
for somewhere
that this silt has not turned back to land

which they could walk on, she could not
for fear of sinking
to her knees. Her eyes track every wing-beat

as the wind decides their course,
forces them to heel about, to tack against the gusts,
show her the way

determination works. They land on what she sees
as scrubby grass and only later
will identify as water,

fen that would have stopped her in her tracks
which lead now – boots on flint,
impacted soil – the way

the swans flew:
banked, oblique but homing
by some instinct, for the place they left behind.

Blakeney, Norfolk