Pennine Way by Glyn Hughes
Today on the M62
is like clawing through sputum.
And thats for the drivers. I am hiking
over a bridge which is the Pennine Way.
Lights nothing but faded lights below
crawl in the enraged throat of the cutting.
Whether it is evening or morning,
I can hardly remember:
but, like the twilight of the morning which it recalls,
surely, surely (says the suck on my boots)
something is starting anew.
What comes out of the muck and rock aheads
a line of would-be toffs on horses
(I know theyre would-bes because such live round here),
two girls with rucksacs carrying Australian flags,
and a sheep wrapped in pearls.
The traffic here thoughs
moving faster than in the Hell below.
Id like a beer.
Is this up here my home? It must be so,
as I love it. I think.
Well, not exactly here.
But in other parts. At other times. Sometimes. You know
how it is, with this and that:
sometimes one and sometimes tother,
in the fog.
2. Speaking for myself
Leave an indoor life caught on hooks,
leave the phone that threatens to ring.
Find self: a spring bubbling up, clearing
through frozen water;
or is it an old, paved way
for sturdy packhorses, lying
in a straight line over the hills
still, under grass.
In fog only the particular
seems to matter. One foot in front
is the beauty of the water-glazed moor,
sombre crimson and ochre.
One clump of grass. A spring.
A pool. Its sound.
But then out of the fog a grim, stone
spike tall as a factory chimney strides
on the moortop. Stoodley Pike.
I must be near Todmorden,
down there lost in its nowhere.
Todmorden. The thud thud thud of its syllables
means death and again, death (or waste) wood.
Tod and mor: two languages,
Saxon and Celtic, for the one word, death.
Wasteland by the wooded stream.
Never a cheerful place, then.
Here Zigmund Adamski,
after fish and chips in Wakefield,
was found dead on a heap of coal
and marked by strange burns.
Evidence pointed to his having dropped from the sky.
The policeman called, sighted a UFO,
then lost his memory.
Three harsh valleys meet here: one occupied
by Celts, one by Anglo-Saxons, one by Vikings.
Above them, the looming Bridie Stones.
Above these, the conference of stars
focuses special attention, it is said,
Fog concentrates the mind
on massive inner and outer worlds.
4. Bridie Stones
Warm in the valleys — but June up there
was wild and cold as a Shetland winter,
at least it felt like it,
and a wind brewed gods knew where
chiseled those Ice Age cuttings.
The moor was in its flowering,
cotton-grass in drifts of white
glazes lighter than the sky,
snipe and curlew weaving
through warps of rain
but you were warm around me
and this was our sacred, archetypal,
Bridgets ancient and enduring place,
discomforting but for spirits in the air:
ghosts of an ancient consecration.
In an evenings murmur of settling birds
on a moor that still accumulates probes —
radio masts and telescopes —
I find stone antennae,
a touching, through rain, of the awakening stars.
A path over rock and ridge
that throws the towns aside.
The valleys are scaled with grey roof-tiles
as if slothed by the traffics snaking:
Hebden Bridge, and Mytholmroyd
to which my namesake, Ted,
"returned less and less of myself".
It was thus for me, too:
on rambles I only cared
to escape into the green or sky-ey
joy that could neither hurt nor confuse.
How arrogant I was. Now my desire
is to live long enough and at liberty
to take my grandchild to the crappy
entertainments I once despised.
My grandchild who teaches me
we are but ripples in eternity,
while sixty years have gone
by like a shadow over the sun.
They say the railways are not safe anymore,
dont run on time, if at all,
and overcrowded roads are blocked by accidents,
and housing estates are flooded,
and on television it seems that our drenched, offshore
island might be governed by over-wealthy teenagers.
And my ex-wife, it is rumoured,
has joined the para-military wing of the Quakers.
If I sound like that chap spouting the history of an
ancient people who lived faraway —
his words spurting with spittle like a
roof-full of water hitting a gargoyle
as he reads from his damp bible
in the streets of Halifax —
that might be nearer the truth than youd imagine,
that being the place I live in:
one of the angry, Chartist and Luddite villages
protectively huddled below his lordships moor.
How shall we save ourselves?
Why, as weve always done:
trespass where we can
to recover a birthright;
trespass on learning, trespass on the moor.
And seem to stay quite still,
Water and windproof jackets hang
in the dark porch like a small crowd watching something
hidden beyond the wall but ominous.
An accident perhaps. A murder:
so dark and still it is there.
Dogs sniff and point at them, suspicious
of our soaked, discarded selves
while we, in the bright bar,
we who have climbed a hill for the hell of it,
are rowdy over our beer,
and hope for a tomorrow when the skies might clear.
Hikers and horsey folk this way
homemade footpath sign in Calderdale.
Bed and breakfast. For bedside reading,
a Gideon bible,
Charlotte Brontes Book of Jokes,
and Fun With Your Publisher
by Carmen Callil. Younger hikers,
wet through, irrepressible, drunk,
are fucking in the barn.
I face the hush of breakfast:
a greasy devouring, restored to sacrament,
at least to awe, to silence.
Dare no-one speak? A whisper:
"it were orrendous,
It buggered the Sky,
we couldnt get no football."
Beyond the window and the
blue-tits cage of swinging nuts
are moors and an ancient wood
wrought with pre-Roman paths
and gashed with new, white falls
The waxproofed horsewomen are clodhopping by.
The enviable fuckers troop out of the barn.
A rag of cerulean blue
breaks the sky.
A town vision
Joe Pilgrim rambles the stony lanes.
Furtive, on the hills, in air
with hot eyes at the unready,
he is alarmed always.
Someone might hit him:
a blow anticipated but still unexpected.
Yet he must wander in all weathers.
I have met him, with his soaked shoes,
and lank Sixties hair fringing crazed eyes;
dirty, and deserted by family and friends.
Once a town-planner, he is now looking for
demolished chapels, terraces,
and the wood drowned under the reservoir;
hunting the ghosts of what he destroyed, poor man.
How well I remember the teams of wreckers
glorying in their idea of justice:
Chartism and Luddism come to the fore
again — the patient chiselling, the old crafts
of seasoned wood and dressed stone,
put to the fire.
His associates have scarpered —
bullied committees once in awe
of the advice of Joe Pilgrim, now mad with his crimes:
his one-way systems that have shoved aside
Victorian crafts and splendour.
Vanished wealth that has left
a ditchbottom of hotmouthed drunks
and teenaged mothers poisoning their prams from pendulous ciggies,
an ugly vocabulary of expletives burning their mouths.
Some defective imaginations
in the nineteen-fifties killed the night skys
beauties by lighting our country ways
with street lights. Stars are dimmed
and the moon is glazed as she peers
at the hills meanderings of sodium lamps,
perpetual fields of crocuses flaming.
We have no sky at night —
there is a roof of lit clouds,
yellow and orange, keeping the
universe from sight.
Giving us light starves us of light;
of the stars influence;
of the universe that, while we talk
for an hour, grows one billion miles larger,
faster than the speed of light that travels so slow
ly, considering how far it has to go
to show only what was.
Where are we? What are we doing here?
Well never understand,
boxed in by our own lights
and reflected lights.
So come inside.