Dunstable Downs

The wind was stronger than expected, at 22 and gusting –
it ran along the ridge, watering my eyes, finding each crevice
in my jacket, as I walked a mile or two along a distance trail.

Expecting to stoop, a hawk rode almost still above the scarp;
sliding, scanning, seeking prey that shrank in the shivering grass.
Then a red kite – larger, bolder, more assured – was equally unlucky
while I watched and slowed my pace, backed against the wind…

They were heedless of the gliders overhead: white thin-winged ideas
shaped in plastics, making tamer circles, grasping silently for height,
sidling past each other with an awkward grace, but lacking purpose –
except to fly;  or brush the wind-combed clouds, occasionally…

Observed, while also watching:  other people loitered behind glass,
sheltered for the moment to immerse themselves and share
in little social rituals of a complacent England;
to seek some precious comforts in their trust of yesterday…

But more than glass fragments us, for they reverse without a mirror
in a landscape carved by ice, reshaped again by climate changes.
Meanwhile, outside, the wind blows harder.

3 voices, calling

You there!  Before you go.  How should we recall you?
~ After waiting’s deadly boredom has expired, broken down
beneath that storm of steel, below their shock and awe;
~ Since time has swallowed your vitality, stripping bare bones
to dusty, hazy memories (all simplified, as people do);
~ Now few of us would recognise how badly fouled things were
when you were called on our behalf, then found a way to cope
with hollow, metalled fear;  with squalid, sore defeats
between frustrated hope and infinite futility…
Rest easy;  you’ve earned it, your service is complete,
however it was weighed, whoever held the scales.

I miss you in the night.  Please come home to tell me ~
~ How heavy your head felt, with blistered feet and hunger-aches
whether you smiled or moaned at everyday complaints;
~ About your sweat and tears and how blood ran when panic flew
or steadied to survive and stand through blinding pain;
~ Of the yelling and the danger and the sheer exhilaration
while your comrades bonded closer than your brothers;
~ Of the thoughts you never voiced, that went against your duty…
I won’t worry you or weigh you down, my darling,
nor cry for your old kindness as it sweetens in my thoughts.
But it was hard to find the will to carry on…

It’s only me.  Much less was asked of me than you.
I know you can’t hear me.  I will salute you all the same
and try to help us learn from those who went before…

the hand

I live below the hand:

the empty hand that beckons on,
the crooked hand, the twisted hand,
the hidden hand, the hollow hand,
the slipp’ry hand, the clammy hand
that shakes,
the hardened hand that strikes us hard
by chance;
the hand that always takes
and never gives away. 

It is a skint hand, waiting:
not for something to turn up
but for something else to fall.