Stanage Edge, 10 miles

There may be a line
a dozen potholes beyond Stanage Pole
where sibilant South Yorkshire ends
and sandy mud turns into muddy sand,

a missing marker between here and there
the no-man’s-land that holds stupidity from folly
between persistent drizzle and a drenching
where sodden sedge slumps above sodden city;

it may be there’s a spot on squawking moor
where one becomes the other, where the run
of wonder turns to Sisyphean slog
and strike of heel or toe is just another nail

into the coughing lung, a bruise in earth,
dark footings where blood blisters blacken.
Dancing a drunkard’s jive from block to rock
the fog unfurls its fools, mad and alive.

Then comes a bridge and tarmac. Over the cattle grid
the long slope and the straight road back
insist we shape and are not shaped. Stones
are square, wood is chopped, sheep are penned

and in the suburbs
the television trumpets from the top of Lydgate Lane
but God still sings in Ranmoor.

 

Wellington Rocks

A crevice you can only squeeze in
as a six year old: lithe enough
to wriggle free of parents’ gaze,
small enough to vanish in the split.

Castle walls you can only scale
at seven: perpendicular, with one way up,
a view to fortify against adults
hurling thoughts at one other.

Bracken you can jungle in
at eight: lost in summer shade,
a stolen penknife sharper than the words
still puncturing your ears.

At eighteen, all the green and bronze
greyed out by traffic: and you,
lessened by school, too big to fit
into the only bit of growing up you’d keep.

 

This poem has also appeared in Message in a Bottle.

Noises at night

Just at the spot where you tripped
the stair-tread creaks in your ear.
The radiator contracts, ticks, clicks
out of time with the kitchen clock. 

An airbrick shrills. Window frames sing.
Under the roof gusts clutch and snatch
the slates. Curtains shift.
Damp clothes flap on wire hangers.

A tap groans, strains, and a dam bursts.
The iron key scrapes, rattles
in the lock. A door moans its last drop
of oil. We are unhinged.

 

This poem has also appeared in Message in a Bottle.