No happy water giggling over pebbles,
just a slow river wide through the fen,
to the estuary, to a tern’s cry in a breaking wave.
From my window I could see the church tower’s stone owl,
our allotment’s skylark, clay pipes and cockleshells,
a field of wheat lace-wing green.
Home was jam on a rolling boil,
Victoria plums sweet as ice bright air,
where the dawn chorus spread from blackbird to thrush,
and on August evenings the moon still warm
by the jetty where steps sagged to the steep dark.
But that morning on the road to Sunday school,
a green car tangled under ice,
the wind sang in cold wires all the way to class,
hands frost nipped, waiting in line for the teacher’s
chairs on tables, fingers on lips.
On the way home, tyre tracks, blood on winter aconites,
black ice they said, where he lost control,
slipped under the river’s edge.
I thought of him during lessons –
All Things Bright and Beautiful, Onward Christian Soldiers,
all sure and steadfast, blood and fire,
listening to the wind’s prayer,
the tick of sleet on high windows.
Later, coming home as the light faded,
passing that tease of deep water,
me aged thirteen, freewheeling, whooping it up,
steel tips sparking the road from church.
Ian Clarke. Fenland ex pat poet living in Harrogate. Published widely in anthologies, in magazines and on-line. Latest book Owl Lit published by Dempsey and Windle (2017).