THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2007

  Peter Marshall
EDWARD THOMAS MEMORIAL WALK
 

'AND I ROSE UP AND KNEW THAT I
WAS TIRED AND CONTINUED MY JOURNEY'

Once out of the field, I crossed the road
To a ditch. For the time being, time
Can stand down. On the other side of the ditch
Some green-gilled horsetails had pitched camp
Under the horse chestnut trees.

In time I was swinging along Luccombe Bottom
Overhung by a hangar. The road above,
At Stoner Hill, was shut for repairs
To the damage done by the landslip.
A mechanical hammer slung out boomerangs.

At first, the noise making its comeback
Rasped like the cowskin bellows they used to work
By milking a rope one handed in the old foundries.
Getting closer, the downbeat was like
The huff of my blood at my eardrum.

I got to the top of the Bottom.
A tractor was trying non-stop to clear its throat.
When I left it behind, I realised I'd left the punch
And counter punch behind as well, as if a heart
Had been pulled out with the lungs.

I dropped within earshot of the waterfall
Edward never got to hear again. It wetted the air
So the track was thick with horsetails.
Then white crests showed through like a linen shirt
Where the serge was slashed open.

I did find the white silk chute that was too furious
To fold away. And I came across the memorial
To the First World War dead, with Edward's name
And some others tumbled up in an extra tranche.
They were pitched apart from two main lists.

It looked like the villagers had thought their tally
Was all topped up after lightening cut that second stick.
We send them to sink to their waists like centaurs,
And say we can't pull them back. I tell myself
I'd thrash off my arms like olive branches trying.

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