100 Chapters
Medium 9781847778512

Scything

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF
Medium 9781847778512

Friesian Bull

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. ePub

He blunders through the last dream

of the night. I hear him, waking.

A brick and concrete stall, narrow

as a heifer’s haunches. Steel bars

between her trap and his small yard.

A froth of slobbered hay droops

from the stippled muzzle. In the slow

rolling mass of his skull his eyes

surface like fish bellies.

He is chained while they swill his floor.

His stall narrows to rage. He knows

the sweet smell of a heifer’s fear.

Remembered summer haysmells reach him,

a trace of the herd’s freedom,

clover-loaded winds. Seed

blows up the Dee breathing of plains,

of cattle wading in shallows.

His eyes churn with their vision.

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Medium 9781857549867

Breaking Waters

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Breaking Waters

March

A thrush is singing. There was a time, when we first came here, when the song thrush never sang in our garden. The land to the west rises to a thousand feet. Our increasingly leafy eighteen acres lie in the lee of it. Some of our neighbours’ fields are entirely treeless, though the scars of old hedgerows are still visible in aerial photographs. In such exposed fields the prevailing winds from the west, and cold winds from the east, scour and sour the grazing, and there’s not a scrap of shelter for the sheep. Before they saw the errors of their ways, the European grant-givers paid farmers to cut down hedgerows. Now the pressure is commercial. As the profits grow smaller, the machines grow bigger. Last year a contractor’s harvesting machine on its way to a neighbour’s huge barley field was way too wide for our lane. Its wheels straddled the tarmac leaving it untouched, gouging the narrow grass verges and crushing the banks of the open ditch which carries flood from the road in heavy rain. It ripped branches from our overhanging tunnel of trees – wild laburnum, cherry, rowan, elderflower, hawthorn – lofty enough for all normal loads and careful drivers of lorries, tankers, tractors and trailers to pass without difficulty, as occasionally they must, down our lane. The monster was not deterred, ripping its way through the arcade of trees, leaving ugly scars and torn branches.

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A Local Habitation and a Name

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

A Local Habitation and a Name

Houses we’ve lived in inhabit us and history’s restless in the rooms of the mind1

Propped on a shelf in the old beudy (byre) at Blaen Cwrt is

Ordnance Survey Sheet XXXII SW printed in 1953. Today the beudy walls are lined with books, and where the manger used to be, in a corner redolent of hay and the grassy breath of Marged’s milking cow, my computer and printer are neatly stowed, as pleasing a design solution as a good metaphor. In Marged’s days the wide doorway was open to the wind and the rain, its stone corners rounded to let the cow pass smoothly to her stall. Today, in place of the doorway, a window seat is set below a three-casement window. It looks over rain-washed cobbles that a hundred years ago would be sluiced clean with buckets of well-water veined blue with milk.

The view leads east down a garden that was once yard, stackyard, sty, orchard and kitchen garden, through sycamore and ash trees and an encircling hedge of laburnum. In May we live in a circle of gold. It’s said the glorious hedges of tresi aur, the golden chain that grows wild round so many fields and along roadsides in this part of Ceredigion, first rooted themselves from fencing stakes peddled by a travelling salesman before the First World War.

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On Rhiwbina Hill

Clarke, Gillian Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

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