Beside the glass smooth slippering stones of stream beds, In the hollow where the belly of the glacier has rolled, Where gill sides seam and furrow the rabbit-burrowed slopes of Eden I have opened my painting box and shook out my dreams.
And in sparkled summer light, Beneath the flight of dew-freckled curlews I have breathed legends into the lungs of my guitar And heard, ringing back to me, The sculpted words of the aeolian mode.
I have been every shade of human sense here With breaking heart and shaken faith and lies of love, With all perfection promises of rain-washed skies Baptised by the new risen day.
I can never set my shadow here again Without some wing of memory Brushing the curving sky of the world within.
The Drovers Inn
Upon the edge of ever turning times, Where peat and heather crumble in the sun And cotton grasses hang their fairy flags And on the turf-tamed road the rabbits run, The echoes hang, like ravens on the wind, Of footfalls dragging wearily to rest Beneath the rising moon’s slow silver pearl, Or light of crimson ribbons in the west.
In tumbled stone and wind the ripples move Of memories that dress this room again With simple songs and politics of fire While outside fell the kiss of Pennine rain. Where candle gleam might soften for a while The unrelenting agony of toil Where, upon the borders of the sky, The coal seams flow, black blood below the soil.
Under the arc of heaven now the stones Lie fallen at the meeting of the ways And all the gentle ghosts have now moved on For here, where all of England falls away To blue and purple distant dreaming hills, The road is still and empty in the sun. Now nothing stirs but shadows of the clouds, The last of all the travellers has gone.
Following walls and sheep trod slopes We climbed and dipped And wove our way across the moor.
I, with the sunlight in my eyes, Was dazzled by your love, And yet mistaken, For I thought that we were one.
But after we had found the falling water Flailing the empty air And breaking where the dippers fly, The leaden weight of words Slipped from your lips And pinned my heart to the gritstone ground.
My breath is short, My bones are splintered And my blood is spent. I am a shadow in your sunshine Where I once burned bright as a star.
Only you can heal me, mend me, Make me whole once more. But, in your wisdom, Like sun and rain, You have withdrawn grace and mercy Beyond my reach, And have made of me a dying man.
Hazel Bank Gill
Tussocked and clinted, The path lies like the tongue of a dog, Panting its gurgling breath in the hot summersun That flames green-gold.
Shaled and screed, The way leads up by banks like rippled bedding Where the hill turned over and began snoring again.
And falling water hangs suspended on crystal wires And curves in fantastical parabolae And breaks its beads of glass and pearl in Vortices that corkscrew, plummet, whirl and fade into the grass, And deep words rise where hidden voices sing Their tale of caves as yet unseen.
Under my feet the fossils lie Lost beneath waves of a sea long dry. And where the drumlins flow like whales Rolling their bodies and grass green tails, From rocks of ice in summer sun The glacier’s melting water ran. Beside the river the pebbles lie Crumbling to sand as time roars by And love that was once like a red, red rose Of dimensions that only a mad man knows Is finally drowned by the passing of time And all that remains is an echo of rhyme That I once believed was life’s sweet wine.
I’ll be better informed next time.
Gentle flowering of evening cloud Blossoming in porcelain light Hanging still in eggshell shades On midsummer daydream’s borders.
Turning wing of echoed song Caught in the throat of the soaring sky While rabbits run like mercury From the weasel-stoated night.
Lost on the limestone lichened edge In thoughts that pitch and roll like galleons Swaying in nets of wine deep seas, Clutching with sails at the flickering wind, Dreaming of gardens peated and heathered Under cerulean skies.
I have no desire to descend to reality, And every earthward step is bought with tears, I would have known paradise here, But for an angel with a flaming sword Who whispered a curse into my ear: Tomorrow.
St. Simon’s Chapel
There is something strange in the deep green shade Of the long grey shadows where the old road runs And the moss grows thick on the fallen stones Of the sky-roofed room where the saint once slept.
There are voices here that are thick with time And a heavy tongue mumbles the cobwebbed words While the river runs by with an innocent air Where a frail bridge hangs with its feet in the ford.
And a warm fatigue comes on me here To lie in the grass where anemones grow And never go climbing back up to the road And breath in the air and gaze through the trees.
I will wait till the word turns the stars around Till they tilt through the leaves as the bird song fades And then take my place in the glittering night And dance to the notes of the song I have made.
The Corpse Road
This is so many roads -
The coal road from Gin Pit, The keeper’s road To the shooting house by the dipper diving river, The children’s road to teatime from the grumbling bus, And the road of corpses.
With nothing behind But the running glitter of the Burn, The miles are measured by the thumping heart And the slow tightening of calf muscles, From the upswinging curve of the bracken bank To the peated gritstoned shoulder Of Brown Beck Swang.
With a beer-pickled, dales-mutton-fed farmer Lifeless in a wicker bucket Bumping the shoulderblades It was a bone-weary way to the moon-hung moor, Before the sweet descent to Sowden Beck.
Beyond the ford the road divides, Its hollows furrowing the rising land Where the middle ages couldn’t make up its mind.
Then the paths are drawn and pleated To a dust and cobble line stitched across the fell, Falling through the downpasture sweep
To the church Long gone from a graveyard of ruined elms,
To the blue hazed arc of Wensleydale, And cool slumber beneath daisy dappled grass.
Deep into shadows under the hill
To the heart of the rain And scumble of the falling water
To the bright-fired and slate-floored bar.
Wood smoke and fresh coffee In the first chill of autumn
And then the path drawn upwards Into the painting Until the contour lines And engraver’s furrows Absorb us.
As I reach the remote bridge Across the winter water That erupts through razored rock And rushes between the rotten hearted hills The rain begins.
Fat drops splat and burst against the windscreen, The temperature falls on The ghost grey shrouded land And I mutter a gut spittle curse.
An hour later, Skin soaked and rain plastered, I pull open the car door And drop into driving seat Raw with elation.
Still tasting rain And watching the windows crawl with steam I swing the car through an arc Of black shining road And set smiling for home.
It is hard to imagine that this hollow In the hill’s rigid spine was once filled with life. Here sleeping stones beneath the moor Are curled in deep dreams of time distanced oceans, And above them flow the soft black blankets of fallen forests.
A bank with a deep sheep-grazed heart Glitters with displaced diamonds of night, And forgotten paths flow below bilberry and heather roots. But the colliers, Deep though their legends lie, Have gutted this hole of coal and memories And taken their snap, picks and crackets away.
High above the glitter of the gills, Where distant hills like waves retreat and fade, And lose themselves in blues washed out to grey And clouds pass shadow-hands across the moor, The tracks converge and part And time means nothing here. And here I hear the echoes of our heartbeats and our song And know that you and I will live forever in this summer haze And dance upon this turf long after we are gone.
Down below this rippling hill Lives a horse-faced dame With a name to match her grouse-butchering gun. Keeper of the keys To the magical door, Where the secret valley meanders through the moor, Her ritzy voice once fluted lies into my ears To keep her little corner of the world Clear of my kind.
At the time I was shocked, But, sitting here in the company of clouds, I realise that I am merely sad to find That those who mind this paradise Have not been pierced by the angel’s arrows That are falling round me now And thrill me as they run me through.
Up in the emerald bilberry leaves -
Where the grey tumble stones are combed silver, Where water flows, Poured into darkness beneath the sun shimmered heath With a rumble of liquid thunder, Kissed by the fragrance That only the scents of July can combine to create
- I am sitting in peace.
Yesterday Laid in a hospital bed, With all of the wonders of Darlington round me, I promised myself that as soon as my freedom was granted That I would be here on the heather of heaven.
And here -
By the build and hope bridge Where the wrens sit and sing and the bees stud the broom
- I will peel off the shadows that lie on my heart Like the stains on the skin Of the sodium vault of the town.
The Message In The Stone
A long time ago The glacier came cruising down Brown Beck, Tore the flanks of Slipstone Crags, And let the erratic story of its slide Scatter and scar the collier’s dale.
And some time later, Some neolithic poets paused To chip and peck these patterns, grey on grey, To leave a message no-one understands.
And still later Foresters came to hedge the hill with pines And, seeing the stone Where the plan said a path should be, They drilled and prepared to blast. But something changed their minds And stayed their hands.
Now in the rains and scouring wind And gentle sun and autumn mist It lies there still, Holding its secret safe to itself, And, in line and curve and shadow, Telling the oldest tale in Colsterdale.
Along a forest track, Beside a lichen birch And through a gate.
Such a simple sequence of moves Sketched on the skin Of an autumn evening.
Here the old path runs into a wall And disappears in search of a distant abbey.
Here the hollows in the field twist the imagination Into a Celtic knot of mixed tenses.
When was this long ago ? And was it different for the falling down farmhouse, The reek of empty barns And the crumbling cattle stalls ?
Something is here from Long ago or Long, long ago And its fragile figure brushes our minds And fades with the mauve sky sun.
Leaving the Roman road by Rokeby The lane winds and slides above the glide twisting Tees, Weaves, threads and drifts between the lambing fields, Sweeps up a rise against the flow of a falling stream And curls asleep in gravel Bearded by April grass.
Everything speaks of sleep here: The wind snores through the arches And pigeons corbel the walls with their slumberous song.
High on the hill The bright palaces gaze big business like Above the ruins
To the smoky haze of Arkengarthdale. But here below In the sheep-cropped cloisters By the murmuring waters A dream of drowsy tinklings Lulls the shimmered air
Much have I travelled in the realms of dust Since last I came to Godric’s cell And walked the river path and climbed the hill And sailed my blistered boat Beneath the stars of fortune.
This was a haven when my spirit Was wrecked on the reef of my ego, When my gritted hands could no longer stand The smoke-tired flesh of Friday nights.
Listen. Listen. Look. Quietness, solitude, sun on eroded stone. A river. A hillside hung with trees.
When the old pirate turned monk And gave up gold for God He found these simple things And made them greater than the sum of all their parts Through some mysterious, mystical magic.
But for me this will always be A broken window framed against the sky, A slender pine tree, A lover that I lost And a lover that I had to lose.
Everything will be different when I return - Smaller, jewel-like. Then I will hang these walls with different ghosts And walk by a different path.
I walk along the beach, looking in the sand for traces of somebody I used to be. I look into the east and my eyes are softened by tears From the wind that comes singing off the sea. I know that I've been here before and only the lovers have changed, But that wasn't me. That was just the sunshine reflected on the sea.
I sing the tune of time, carve colours with my hand And spend my years finding love with you. I light my children's flames and send them through the night And hope that they will dream the dream anew. I don’t know where I stand till my hand touches on stone. Is that really me, Or the singing of the saints that I'm feeling in my bones ?
I look into the night and voices in my heart tell me of a day when fear is no more. I'll be a ripple in the sand, a teardrop in the tide of light That sweeps along the empty shore. When you walk through the wind blown grass Listen for my song. You'll know its me For I will be the moonlight reflected in the sea.
Middleham Castle - The Prince’s Tower
In December-dark caverns of shadow and fern, Grey as the mist of the horse-haunted sky, Is a clatter of pigeons where princes have played In the curving stone bones That are wrapped around secrets and sighs.
In hide and seek hollows Where corbels are carved by masons and frost, On stairs that climb somewhere and nowhere The air is hung with breathing, The walls are touched by fingertips Tracing the shapes with a blind girl’s strength, Remebering the blue and gold and purple Of the pre-Shakespearian day.
Christmas ghosts ripple the chivalrous silence, And I know that in the deepest coffin of a winter’s day, On the turning of the bleakest year That I was and always will be Happy here.
Sun falling slantwise, pooled on cool stones, Poured over the chapel floor, Soaking the watery limbs of a summer’s day. The castled hill, round as a crown, Rising broken-toothed, open roofed Under a roaring sky cracked by the wings of martins, Hangs in the shimmered air In the lull of September slumber.
I could lie here, Wound like a fern leaf, Turned to face the lingering sun, And touching my fingers to the soft polished grasses For an age.
But through the arrow loop, Beneath the distant looming Purple gloom of hills, The road measures the miles to my home. I am called and I cannot stay.
Richmond Painted By Turner
Sometimes, Standing on the slope of Slee Gill, I can see old JMW Bashing out one more colour beginning Before cakes and ale at the King’s Head.
What a lucious life - Lather boy to light of the world By way of Cheyne Walk.
This was his meat and drink (Not his bread and butter) Setting the cragging castle against the ribboned moon, Or studding the Swale with ducks Which rip the ripple water with their wings
We all stand in his jocular shadow, Safe as Luther beneath his blazing skies, Blessed and illuminated by his God Rising through vapour.
Trees of drifting wood smoke blues and Deep green shadows misting the ragged grass. Flash of pheasant and Thud of autumn gun in the loose leafed woods Pock mark the declining day, And the rain-washed year Fades like a sun stained cloth
In the rich fathomed purple silk of darkness Rising, buttressed, from the November land, A shaft of sun burns green between the walls, And fades like a snuffed out whisper. And we are rocked On the intoned plainchant of the rumbling tide, Pilgrims under a pale sky, Dreaming of home and crumpets.
On a dusty green October Sunday, Sunless and washed by the worn out wind, We scaled the grass growing mounds of Stanwick And wandered conversationally through the Crenelating treess
Cheese sandwiches, apples and orange juice. Lunched on a rampart and Munched where the Brigantian world once ended. (Or was supposed to end.)
We talked quietly of tomorrow and next week On the worm tilled, turf sheathed Map of yesterday.
Where once I saw the world fresh as dandelion snuff The cobwebs crept in And wrapped the struggling parcels of memory As Miss Haversham’s spiders Wrapped her bride cake.
This place became a lace of rotted flags And sulphrous footsteps, Where Gothic novels roamed the echoing stairwells And licked their fly-papered lips.
But time picked up the sable brush And spread a wash of clean water Lolling in the hollows of the cotton-ragged stones And silvering the sky.
And I saw the bright sun In the spring sky And breathed fresh air again.
The curve and soar of a swallow in stone, The echo of flight in the ghost of a window The splash of glaze in a blaze of grass And the cool stretching maze of the shadows.
Sun bathing lazy girl laid at my side Counting the clouds in the chapter house, Vaulted with laughter and glittered with words, We were butterflies jewelled in the sunlight
My loves and my lover - we danced silver bright, We were lighter than cloistering daisies. We were hand-in-hand angels as pure as the sky, And our memory lies like a kiss On this lovliest of places.