The third (and last) poem in Andrew Hirst’s Three Night Walks (from The Footing, due autumn 2012).
The last streetlamp at last far behind me
a carbon lump of land rises and dips, the residue
from a fable, although more tentative now.
This is the one I knew when we went back late
and caught the icy moon between bare branches
napping on the still lake, the blue black
of Pascal, thick breath clouds out, who threw his hands
over his last candle to silence it, a child’s tremulous murmur.
As I approach still further down the road
an old ewe, whose patch this truly is, bellows out a warning
- there’s no quietness here or anywhere tonight.
In deficit, the thin contemporary distance flattens
unfamiliar names on dry tombstones, a white alarm beckons.
I’m drawn to it just as I am to water
- the sound keeps me alive.
As if still in wet ink, I suddenly remember
those beautiful lines from St. John of the Cross
- There he stayed sleeping and I caressed him
and the fanning of the cedars made a breeze
And then right at the end the bit about being sedated by lilies
- I follow the moorland curvature until
residual light blooms over in the next valley beyond.
I don’t know where I am nor where
any of this is leading, but feeling my way over
the density or lightness of things I do not have
to think of memory very much
of foxhole, shattered meadow, oak’s bare branches.
As the late bus home pulls down onto empty outskirts
I again begin to draw the future from memory
- at Hope Wakes I watched a girl winched down
onto a white mare all the male villagers swished
with oak fronds as a symbol of renewed virility.
I don’t know if it works in reverse but within the year
my best friend became glacial and moved away.
We never spoke again but through photographs
- our marooned, irregular faces full of coyness.
Listen to Andrew Hirst reading this poem here.