Sunday, 19 May 2013

Landlock by Matthew Hollis


Rain came rarely to the white wood valley.
In between times, he did what he could,
cut rhubarb and gooseberries, brought flowers
from the hill: camel-thorn in winter, rest-harrow
in summer, rock-rose, barberry, mimosa.
He ground wormwood to settle her fever.
When the trouble was done he would take back the farm,
plant olive and cedar, build her a home.
But she thought mostly of the sea —
the uncommissioned sea —
wild at her, salt strong —
not the starving river, brackish and torn —
a river is never enough.
One of her wishes was to find her own path,
but the lowlands were locked down, the plains undone;
so they climbed, and climbed as one.
And when she could not walk he carried her
and when he could not carry her she walked.
Such as this the days went by, till his strength too was sapped.
He laid his back against the longer rock
and set her head that gently in his lap.
Sleep overtook them on the slope.
He woke to take the sunlight in his eyes
and could not see at first the greater distance,
the strange blue, stain blue light in the distance,
that seemed every bit to move, impossible, surely,
a thin drawn band of sea, somewhere meeting sky.
He raised her head that she might see it done.
But where she was she had already gone.

Published in the Guardian, 25 July 2009

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