Dear Simon Armitage,
In response to '70 Notices'
You spent a long time looking hard to notice seventy things
between greyscale streetlit troughs and Dark and White Peaks,
saw a full moon bottled in a drop of dew,
felt the full weight of Sheffield and Manchester come to the last lamppost
to stand on the rim and peer into the steaming void, to breathe the abyss,
where you concluded that a moor is owned by a moor and no one else, full stop.
And I couldn’t agree more,
though I’ve met several golden plover who would cry ii-oo to differ,
before they flew back traceless from the season’s second home,
over the seas of second homes.
Life rams into a rucksack as we march to look at nature over there,
in the sheep-manicured green, in the carefully curated wild.
My boots lay tracks like yours into the great escape, the great beyond,
willing the lungs revived in wider air and thinner sky.
It’s easy to believe here that god is everywhere.
No church’s gilded matchbox could contain the spark of life.
The walls are loose and low.
No concrete casts to hide the wounded earth.
The rucksack is the lightest of our baggage.
The rest it takes a mind a few remindings to abandon by the road.
Some never shake their shadow, nor embrace it at the peak.
But there is always white and dark.
The sun shines us a shadow; the clouds sheathe us in shade.
They say that it’s the fire within that counts.
We cannot cope with transience.
We can’t abandon time and space.
But now and again we forget ourselves
and wake up in the moment of unfolding,
watching the unwrapping of a scene,
before we store it in the vault.
We take what’s real, dress it up, serve it to ourselves.
We make it tell a story we enjoy.
This nature we will always claim, in minds and then on paper.
For Clare, the home of freedom and of awe;
for Wordsworth, a romantic getaway;
for Hardy, some great mystery beyond the troubled soul.
And us? What line are we?
This nature is our therapy. We come to be well. To be, well.
But reconnection demonstrates our perfect separation,
while some say we are one and always were.
Whatever we have lost across the void,
whatever we forgot about our simple, carnal, spiritual selves,
we can’t restore by dreaming of utopia,
by coming here to get away,
by gifting this to nature and the nation.
These are only glimpses of a truth.
We can notice what remains.
This can be a poet’s work.
We can challenge what is claimed.
We can claim and then reframe.
But answer me this:
When we turn to return, the lamppost our lighthouse,
when we empty the rucksack and life tumbles out,
when the dew loses grip on its bottle of moon,
what then do we scrawl on the Underground wall?