‘Helgafell’ by Tony Williams


There is a quarry in my heart. The lovely lanes
divide. One humps from Upperwood to Uppertown
and Ember Lane, and Ember Farm (my family’s farm,
which has not been our farm for fifty years).
At Bonsall’s market cross the clot of stone
sends tassels out towards the Barley Mow, the moor,
and down towards the valley’s narrow chute
that lands with laughing splashes at the pond
at Scarthin. There’s a bookshop here,
so it’s safe to leave us,
while we retrace and take the other fork
down by the Wapping and the last few houses,
Christine’s and the Warnes’ and this one on the left
which had an empty pond and concrete turtle,
a totem of the presence on the hill
whose cloak of bramble, altar which we raided,
prevented every ingress. Through the woods –
to skirt with steps like murmurs St John’s Chapel,
Shining Cliff, the Heights of Jacob,
and there, below, the red mill and its chimney
and the path down into Scarthin where the swans
are waiting by the bookshop, and we find
ourselves perusing Local Interest
for a book to help us, but no geology
can name a space from which the stone has gone.
Tony Williams’s most recent book is The Midlands (Nine Arches Press, 2014). He lives and works in Northumberland, where he is currently researching medieval forms of writing. He tweets at @tonywilliams9