Where three ash trees serrate the sky
the stream bends and a slab of rock
creates a natural weir. Everything
is on pause. Shallows become thigh deep.
For fifty yards the twist and tumble stops:
the brook descends in gentle steps,
gingerly trying its weight on the next stair –
a shuffling elder of a dying clan.
This river has two voices. One, endless,
murmurs its crowd of ghosts, the slaters
who heaved and hewed, swore,
always wore black to chapel.
Above and below, dissent or descant,
vexations of children, a clucking of hens,
a bubble of meat boiled to fragments
and old ones counting the dead.
Past the sweet brambles, the river turns:
beyond a creaking footbridge
its course is dark as starlight.
The valley drowns, a baptism of stone.