Names on a map

This is our coastline. We have mapped it,
claimed it with feet and eyes and breath:
Skerne, where we saw the sparrow hawk,
the place where the cormorants
hang their black wings out to dry,
the rounded cobbles, mapped with barnacles;
and Sandymere, where I’ve seen fish
thrown up and dancing in the cresting waves;
and Westward Ho! – all fish and chips
and ice-cream cones, and serious rock pools.
Abbotsham and Peppercombe, Bucks Mills –
deep valleys running to the sea,
steep wooded walls and bluebells
and a badger, once. Fairy Cross
and Blackchurch Rock and Hartland Quay,
where the sun drops heavily
behind the sloping rock
and all the cliffs are carved back,
stripped to the deep past.
Shipload Bay is seals and sandwiches –
then Welcombe Mouth, Gull Rock
and Crackington, and Sandymouth:
Pebbles and sandy feet and
salt-caked skin. Herring gulls and peregrines.
The day the swallows came.
The sea claws at the land here,
seal-grey, scouring at angles,
carving, carving. We have left
our laughter here, our voices
calling, calling. We’ve left our fading
photographs and sea-bleached stories
to be washed clean and worn away.

For Sherry, at earthweal, who asks us to say the names of the places we care about.

This stubborn place

This is a stubborn place, I’d say.
Old names live on here. Bits of wild
cling to steep hillsides, linger
in forgotten corners.

Three nights ago we saw a hare
lop-lollying along the ridges
in the maize field. I wonder
what she thinks of our machines,
our lines. We carve the landscape,
make divisions, demarcations.

Up on the hill, the farm name holds
the memory of a sacred grove.
Scrabbled scruffy stands of ash and oak
are still held sacred – never cut.
Our hedgerows are all tangled sanctuaries –
blackthorn, hazel, haw –
small creatures hiding, homing there.

Last night an owl swooped silent
across Nick and Jennie’s field,
clipping the long grass, almost.
We watched him scouting,
criss-crossing the scrubby corner
where the lane turns east.

Things are a little tatty here.
There’s space for nesting sparrows,
jackdaws crank call from the bottom barn,
and the rooks nest all along
the field’s top corner, and beyond.
You’ll see them march
across the slurried fields.
Leatherjackets, that’s what
they’re after, beaks plunged
in the smelly ground.

Sometimes
we’ll meet a deer, tip-toeing.
Wildness ebbs and flows –
a field left fallow,
a field ploughed,
an old hedge lost
to trees. A lane forgetting
it was ever paved.

We make accommodations here.
We let the nettles grow,
the brambles fling their skinny arms out.
We are not too fussy.
Well, we can’t afford to be –
you turn your back round here
and the wild slips back,
whispering old stories,
old secrets, trailing
old scents, remembering.

A poem for Brandon at Earthweal. I’m lucky to live in a rural backwater. I’ve been angry for a while now, at so many things happening in the world. I’ve given myself a break in this one, and indulged myself, revelling in the beauty of the world around me.

North Devon – poem for dVerse

For my eldest daughter I will take
Dart water, tumbling, and a flash
of Tamar, and a trembling dash
of Torridge water and of Taw
and in Berrynarbor we will pick
berries red and blue and sweet
and plump and ripe, and we will grind
red Peppercombe rocks
to add some spice
and in the early morning light,
we’ll go by way of Brandy Cove
to Widmouth Head and Burrow Nose,
and as the sun sets in the West
we’ll make our path from Gallant Rock
to Damehole Point by way of Stoke,
passing through Rosedown as the clouds
turn pink and gold, to Speke’s Mill Mouth,
and all this corner of the world
from Dipple up to Fairy’s Cross,
I’ll wrap it up and make it hers,
Lostmead, Foxdown, Blackchurch Rock.

Lillian is hosting Open Link Night at dVerse tonight, and looking for treats. This is a celebration of some local place names, and a nod (or more) to Edward Thomas and “If I should ever by chance”