Heather Shakespeare

The Walk


High and low we looked that afternoon
in The Roughs, invited ancient trees
to yield a word no-one had spoken,
stooped to peer down holes, under hedges
searching for stories yet to be told,
stopped to catch on the wind a pheasant’s call,
a quivering of wings, the musk of damp earth
unfolding spring’s first celandine.

Startled by steam and the thrust of an engine
crossing the valley, crossing the decades,
we gasped, cried out and wished it slow so
we could hold it there, halt time somehow,
pull back the years to see who trod these paths,
who tilled this soil — the chalk and trace of flint —
who rested here on banks of bee orchids and vetch
gazing half-eyed on green scarp slopes.

Back and forth we looked that afternoon
in The Roughs, invited those who’d passed
this way before to join us in our search,
pledged to bequeath our words to those who follow on.

From Surrey Unearthed – Mole Valley Poets Anthology 2018