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A Country On Fire, Littlewood Press
The poems in this first collection were awarded a major Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors.

Todmorden

This is the true constriction:
Heart-gripping rock wringing
Its folk out like rags,
The valley deep
As a deep wound
Set below staring outcrops,
Under interminable rain.
Mills and terraces pack together,
Their bible-hearted chapel-stone
Breathing darkness,
Dripping sleet slung from hill farms’
Dilapidation where sheep blacken
Between snows,
Drag their ragged fleece-bundles
And stare
Down disappearing roads.

This is the pass through heartlands
Concussed with looms and locomotives;
Laundry beating on lines,
Old men bent under rheumatic weather
On drenched cobblestones
Where market traders yell
In smoke smudged air.

Hills gape at man’s audacity
To build in their cleft,
Blocking the artery
With stone
And work
And religion,
Damming up its pulse
In the anguish of the machine.

Heart’s worsted wears thin
In raw Pennine air,
Against infernal rain
Bleak upon the eye,
Yet the blood’s urge torments
With visions of Jerusalem,
City of jasper and emerald
Of brass bands and choirs
Hailed from the mouths of chapels
From which textiles drag themselves
Unrolling
Beneath bulrushes
Booming
Below the harebell’s outcry.

 

A Country on Fire
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