Clare Best is Writer in Residence at Brighton University. She is collaborating with Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis on Springlines, a project which explores hidden and mysterious bodies of water. http://www.clarebest.co.uk
In the tower
There was one way in: a road, a U-shaped valley,
a path through an orchard. A staircase from bottom to top.
This is the kind of place we find in our dreams, she said.
They didn’t speak of their nightmares then.
The first day, they gazed at trees clouded with blossom.
The next, they walked the flowering orchard.
That night, in the iron bed, they listened––
a bat’s wing folding, the last log turning to ash in the hearth.
I’m cold, she said. He fetched a rug and laid it across her.
The barometer fell as they slept.
When they woke, there was no mirror to show they were older,
all they sensed was whiteness beyond the window:
snow had filled the blossoming trees, sculpting the orchard
in drifts––not a twig or bird to be seen.
But that was another time, and long ago.
What can be said, this April, of chipped flint skies, rime frost
spiking the single flowering cherry, magnolia closed
against a fierce north wind? They speak of nightmares now
as well as dreams. There is one way out: a staircase from top
to bottom. A path, an orchard, a U-shaped valley, a road.
I am a dent in the ancient Downs––
shallow crater, unhealed wound. I am lens,
bright coin on the dip slope’s tongue.
I am the shock of water
filling the hollow left by the hoof.
I am found at the heart of a midnight storm,
in the pause after the snow’s rough song.
Sink to your knees in my summer dew,
winter rain and sleet.
Held by chalk-light between sky and hill,
I mirror the dark
through countless nights. I am thought
by earth and air, gorse and hawthorn.
Under the sun, I contract
to a sliver of platinum. I am gone.
[‘In the tower’ was commissioned for Drifting Down the Lane, ed. Harriette Lawler and Agnes Marton (Moon and Mountain, 2013) and has appeared in The Same, ed. Martin Mitchell (USA, 2014). ‘Dewpond’ was first published in Earthlines, no.6 (August 2013).]
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