The Swimmers

At Temple Grove they emerged
in their towel-wrapped attire,
a mother, maybe, and her daughter,
in spot colours, those of rich cottons,
lifting them in the gloomy outfield
as they placed white feet on grass,
in that tiptoe way we all have to
when barefoot in summer;
as they dripped pond water,
and held themselves from shivers,
we spectators for the ball game
wondered at their wild pleasure.

Beddingham Landfill

The picked at scab
scarring above Beddingham,
containing such poisons,
rain-washed infections,
which leach, for this ever,
into the tide-turned Ouse.

Up there they buried
square metres of radiation,
and household stuff,
tonnes of weighty nappies,
and other tipped shit
of our modern lives

into that former chalk pit:
High open-heart surgery
on the South Downs,
that gull-dived littering,
best buried and grassed over;
invite butterflies.

Smeuse

Smeuse, that low-run gap
where the wild things are,
under Sussex-set hedges,
but now a reduced tag,
worn out, as are the places
without any lasting labels;
things will no longer exist:
my kids already fail to name
occasional birds or trees,
and without nature’s
passed down placeholders
a creation disappears,
until we chance to recapture
the nameless creatures,
and pass the landscape on,
with their ancient titles
and collected echoes
of common-place parlance:
We may lose them all,
no word for sparrow?
Then no sparrows are left.

Sheffield Park, East Sussex

The wide open workshop
was beyond my education
(three terms of metalwork
forty years earlier was never
any kind of apprenticeship).

Greased tools, backs bent to it,
at components, stripped elements
of dead men engineering,
here exhumed across scale layouts
of locomotive parts, almost lost

until men in overalls, and tilted caps,
pulled on levers and tools to fix
the lines from one shut station
to another, suffered, under Beeching:
to get the steam into the pistons:

Our kids milled, kicked at ballast,
and were more intrigued by a ring tone
than the scale of rod-shoved wheels,
and steps so high, halfway to Heaven,
for these men, so we left the engine shed.

Walking on Water

Arlington Reservoir vibrated,
that low bowl of gust-cut waves,
the quantity now the difference
to my previous walk here,

that and my end-of-day inability
to route march any more:
as a kid, returning from school
they called me ‘Bell-fast’.

A stared sparrowhawk, high,
worked miracles to remain in place:
I am the opposite of that bird,
landlocked, working to move.

The gravel scuffs, my soles wear,
it hurts, even in these boots,
and because I have sent myself
back before the rest, I must

sit at the car park and wait.
My youngest is the first to return,
and to hide my accelerated pain
I ask to be taught to skateboard,

and as I stand, held by him, unsure,
the wind drops, and I balanceĀ 
as on a small boat, not quite Galilee,
but hoping he still believes in me.

Heated

A few weeks back,
this summer,
and I would be stood
in a mist,
but this ridiculous
month of June
offers no such
cool sleights
as I stick-click,
lop-sided, alongside
the sucked-slouch
of the muddied Uck;
then hollered at
by the diesel’s sad call
as it sights
the unattended crossing,
and all the time,
across Manor Park,
bedroom windows are flung
in an un-English surrender
to the day’s heat
still found in bricks,
as the padding fox,
so thin,
sets off the estate’s
choir of panting dogs.