path up through windclipped gorse, wind in the eye
& such yellow splashes through the heather
sheep-cropped mounds & sink-holes of the mines
all smooth as china cups & saucers stacked up
at the table edge
& shelved up there, the purple hills,
here, bilberries & our purple fingers.
share coffee from the Thermos. Perch
on springy bones of heather root & watch
across the gorge, a nursery
of dark firs gathered quiet
& good by the cliff’s white knee
we listen to the shush
of a sheep through whinberries
oooooooooooo & hum of a bee-line into warm air.
path divides into 2 green trails. We know
we have chosen the right way when
we can look down on the other as it narrows to a thread,
full-stopped at a brink by a sleeping sheep.
Berries are red-dangled, plumping above pale screes.
We halt by a jut of stones
where a twist of swallows dives & feasts
on insect-clouds blown
oooooooooooooo from Eglwyseg’s lips.
beyond: raised tide of Llantysilio’s hills
& near, like a minute adder striped & scaled,
a brown caterpillar inches in the dust. Thistles
are spent, dying in their upright stalks
& at our backs the moor rolls up to Ruabon,
above an oblique shine
oooooooooooo of thistledown, loose cloak of looms & riddles.
fresh gulley water bubbles in a sink
of stone, then falls & empties back
inside the hollow hill. It leaves no sound.
We walk past a vole passage drilled through dung.
A fence-line stitches the grouse moor. Eye catches
on a fencepost with tilted crow.
oooooooooooo Bronze Age burial kist, mapped once, gone now.
spreadeagled by the wall, a dead sheep, chalky
porous vertebrae in rainwashed fleece
we pass 3 daisies low along the path, like dropped
white pebbles from children’s pockets
& the mountain rears & grins,
shows all its caried limestone teeth.
Jean Atkin lives in Shropshire. Her first collection Not Lost Since Last Time is published by Oversteps Books. She has also published five poetry pamphlets and a children’s novel, The Crow House. Her recent work has been published in The North, Earthlines, Island Review, Under the Radar and Dark Mountain. She has held residencies and worked on projects in both Scotland and England. She is currently Poet in Residence for Wenlock Poetry Festival. www.jeanatkin.com