Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Wallers - A poem by Irvine Hunt


                           It begins well. In canvas den 
                           the dykers bivouac beside the ridge,
                           and hands at a touch set out to put
                           a crag of slate to rest,
                           to build a wall before the frost.

                           Through scattered stone,
                           through bracken and scree, 
                           quiet minds begin to pick, 
                           sorting the rock,
                           eyeing the slope; 
                           lodging a first stone,
                           where a wall will stand.

                           It falls to place, the wall,
                           slowly, advancing on beck 
                           and hump,
                           draining heights
                           of tumbled scree,
                           a stone snake, 
                           a line across the fell
                           till hard against a barren slope 
                           it piles
                           and sets to climb a wet hillside.

                           At this the dykers seem to slow,
                           through mist they move
                           and sheets of rain,
                           as lost, momentum gone. 
                           a cleft is filled in stone by stone.

                           Ragged weeks ensue and still
                           they build.
                           In a dull flare 
                           autumn fades,
                           and November’s mists,
                           till a first trace of frost,
                           the white edge of winter,
                           shines along the ridge and only then 
                           the mountain slope is crossed. 

                           Three months gone
                           from the first stone
                           to a wall complete,
                           scarcely half a mile, little more, 
                           yet built to last . . .
                           past my day, and yours.

                           It seemed the only way 
                           to build a wall. 

Copyright Irvine Hunt

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