On Whiteways Hill

Occasional trains pass like noisy ghosts
In this vale of indistinctness:
Variegated ivy, rippling over stones of grey;
Fresh ash plants, rivalling grasses in their perspective slenderness;
The tussocky field with the hoof-marked path –
Only these seem real – the rest shimmers.

Amberley, with the semblance of a pale-eyed feline
Stares back through the haze
Her man-made purring re-echoing
Between the chalky brows.
From the cat’s wooded nose
Scurry intermittent mice along a hedge-covered way,
Flashing sharp distress signals from the gaps.

Below the road an empty cornfield mourns for its lost splendour,
Stubbled as an ill-shaved man.
Like the cardiac graph of a sick patient
A faltering line of trees pursue their meandering route
Marking with their line the near extreme
Of the treasureless field.

Nearer yet, wavering in the thermal
From the grey stone wall
An ancient gypsy campsite holds the eye –
A charred and blackened patch –
Low-lying, yet standing out like
A cuckoo in a nest of pipits
The empty hearth glares open to the sky
Mute witness to its past inhabitants..
They left a trace where trace was none before.
As do we all.

Whiteways Lodge, Arundel. 1970

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