He’d been clearing snow from the path.
Others, younger, grunting curses, smashed ice
thick as his wrist with car-jacks and crow-bar,
their breath draped over the air like gauze.
I’d waved through a window feathered by frost,
glad to be inside with the stove and hot, sweet tea,
content to watch an old man shovelling snow.
That was the year when water froze in pipes
beneath the road, when rabbits came down
from the fell and died, crouched in their shrivelled
skins like refugees, the year that eighty-two
stopped in its tracks and an ambulance
couldn’t make it up the dale.
gold – noun:
a precious yellow metal
a glint, scattered like pollen grains, glittering constellations panned from a creek’s sandy scree.
Symbol – Au
a creeping seam, this ochre ore pinioned between platinum and mercury, bedrock-bullion, wild nuggets for hammer and pick-axe to harvest.
Atomic weight – 196.967
clank of anklet, cuff and torque, spill of sovereigns, doubloons, pieces-of-eight, the chime of rings struck for love, ingots for eternity, a heart, a fever, a fool’s rush for dust, the elusive crock.
Specific gravity – 19.3
a shallow lake full of moonlight or the emerging sun working its metamorphosis over dark hills, eagle feathers cast on purple moors, the eye of blackbird, shimmering gorse flowers, the one exquisite seed.
He leaves no tracks
in fields laid flat by winter,
this way and that
over bare, black soil,
pulling his coat closer
to fend off the cruel wind.
He carries a lantern
and a scythe, a sack slung
lightly, rolled and tied
with thin twine.
He moves like fog,
quiet and cold, and each night
field mice, rabbits, voles,
freeze in his wake, hares shiver,
bats and owls retreat
to barns and steeples
as he steps into the air.
The old ones tell of the Gatherer,
come to rob you of your light;
he’ll say he’s a young man but,
if you dare to meet his sloe-black
gaze, you’ll see what he’s seen –
a thousand snows, a thousand, thousand
moonless nights, the wheeling stars
dissolving, bearing witness
to his harvesting eyes.
He’s the ragged shadow
hung, fluttering, between
darkness and glass, the shapeshifter,
night-visitor, come to steal day,
to erase the shining ledge of morning
leaving only endless sleep.
(first published Aesthetica Anthology 2013)
Lesley Quayle is a poet and folk/blues singer. Widely published in magazines, including Tears In The Fence, Pennine Platform, Prole, Acumen etc., she was co-editor of Aireings Poetry Magazine for ten years. Now living in rural Dorset, she has just finished her first novel and her most recent collection Sessions came out last year, courtesy of Indigo Dreams Press.