The Crossing

 

A barn

metal roof folded

flung open

floor laminated

with a century’s dung

its surface an ooze

on which old Tom

has her roped down

underhalf dripping

with black pigment

shaved hide around

the red yolk wound

the vet pushes

his forearm inside

probing for the calf

the dark fish body

slipping out among

pallid slicks and skins

old Tom witnesses

again the coil in

those first slow breaths

strong enough

to topple walls.

 

 

 

 

Fell Walking

 

For days he’s watched the sky’s

whipshifting terrain leaden.

Now the storm’s blowing

and he’s up on the roof.

So close to the rim of life

but still he can’t see over the edge.

He senses only what his senses lack

how the world obscures beneath

the billowdown of snow.

His lips fail to differentiate

temperature from state.

This dissolution of shadow,

the milk light so like darkness

emitting not from a pinpoint

but from everywhere at once.

He sees indistinct shapes on the mountain

perhaps a dog chases the ghost of a hare.

Everything is running for cover.

The stonefalling cold has cleared

a road for the statues to walk

and for him to discover

the fixity of every step.

 

 

 

 

Last Winter

 

He closes the gate, snaps at his pack,

the sheepdogs swim through bracken,

 

through the broken barn to the house

slumped against its own walls

 

trying to pick itself up for winter.

Joe’s last winter – he’s too old for this,

 

grey heron flying backwards against the wind.

He’ll sell his flock, let the house blow down,

 

let the hill heal the burns from his boots.

But not tonight. He climbs into his truck,

 

the sick ewe shaking in the back.

He’ll watch over it all night

 

staring through the keyholes of its eyes

into dim, still unfamiliar rooms.

 

 

 

James Roberts lives in the Black Mountains. Recent poetry and essays have been published by Agenda, Envoi, Earthlines and The Island Review. A small collection of poems is due out from Cinnamon Press in August. He is editor of Zoomorphic, a new online magazine of wildlife writing.