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Old Landscapes

by Mollie Skipper

These parallel streets
scoured by sand and salt
were gaunt and endless to a child.
Abrasively bleak-tongued this town,
but I return to feel the east wind
punch at my lungs.
I have been dead in comfort for too long.

I sidle past the cemetery
still flaunting its demons.
I once danced three times
round a grave, dared by friends
who swore the devil would appear
by the third circuit.
Fear charged the back of the neck.

On to the river and the bridge
which opens its jaws
to let tall ships through.
I dreamed as a child
- not hearing the warning whistle -
I'd be caught astride the gap
like an infantile Colossus.

Away from the town, along the river,
past wood yards, stacked planks
sliced by circling saws,
to the harbour, where herring boats drag in,
tired from the long night's drifting,
where the fishermens' briny accent
lilts lazily as they reach the quay.

But I've been hankering after stretching space;
great slabs of sky flying flags of cloud,
the estuary at dusk, the sun setting gold
on the backs of the waders, wild cries colliding
with screech of gulls and plaint of curlews,
and the marshes, reeds angled by salt wind,
and the sea at night, dark and unfathomed
as old dreams sunk in receding waves.

Norfolk Poems




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