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A Backdowns Poem for National Poetry Day

( Last Updated: 12-10-2009 )

FIVE POETS TAKE A WALK IN THE COUNTRY by ANTHONY WATTS

...in search of the Muse, who
naturally
went into hiding (her favourite game, after all).

Today she's playing squirrels -
somewhere out here,
in this fold of the Blackdown Hills,
she has hidden the nut
that contains the seed
of a poem.
We descend
from the car park to the lake. Could it be there,
in the root-dark of that rhododendron island
where no-one goes? No-one has ever been?

We linger at the bridge
in a wistful silence...
(Everyone wants to be water

- not the headlong river that bruises itself on rocks
in its haste to escape the source, still less the sea,
tossing and sighing at the end of the moon's leash -

not these, but lakewater - water that has come home,
that fills its space completely, that presents
an untroubled surface over settled depths.)

Reluctantly we move away
and take the narrow path into the woods
(Is that the rain-rinsed song of a bird
in the high trees - or the Muse's mocking laughter?)
Maybe she's hidden it here, where the beech-boles raise
their smoky torsos in an ancient dance.

*

The lower lake is shedding a skin -
it slithers like silk down a stone staircase
and disappears among billows of water dropwort - perhaps it's there

...or there, where a solitary orchid burns -
a candle in the grass (may it soon
get a bee in its bonnet and seed a conflagration.)

*

Should we ask the bearded fisherman on the bridge?
Or the lady whose dog,
slicing the lake like an otter,
smashes its stick in an excess of eagerness?

*

The sky darkens and a shabby rain
shepherds us into a pub. Could it be here?
A pint of Exmoor Gold and a sonnet please.
We dry out over a meal (how easily
the body is appeased, while the spirit still hungers.)

*

And now the final lap (along lanes to avoid
the sodden grasses).
Subtle shifts of scenery in the sky
reveal the backdrop in a glimpse of blue.

A frieze of bovine faces,
like trophies hung along the hedge-top, and beyond them
a late sun settles on a row of oaks
as though it were a homecoming.

Is it there,
in that golden wood at the far end of a field?

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