At the bend in the road
where tyre tracks in wet grass
mark out the passing place,
the fall of leaves reveals the bones
of an old weathered wall.
Embedded in it, an ancient bell,
Beyond, a hollow house, encroached
by reaching bramble. Stains
of over-ripened apples
against pallor of stone
where what was once a cottage garden
now crowds in.
This was a main street, before
the coming of the wagons
gouged the passing places,
crumbled walls to sand.
Boys on oily bicycles
rattled through drizzle,
their flat-capped fathers hauling loads
of malted barley from the pier.
The ring of the bell
summoning them to school, to prayer.
It was a gradual fading.
With each new storm a cracking of roofs,
a rot of timbers. One more family
uprooted. Only the bell
in its skeleton frame
now marks each raindrop,
each shiver of gale:
a passing, a fading,
Previously published in A Long Way to Fall (2013)
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