As soon as we crossed into Yorkshire

Hughes’ voice assailed me, unmistakable

Gravel and honey, a raw celebration of rain

Like a tattered lacework window;

Black glisten on roof slates,

Tarmac turned to shining ice,

Blusters of naked wind whipping

The wavelets of shifting water

To imaginary floating islets

On the turbulent river

Glumly he asked, “Where are the mills?”

Knowing their goneness in his lonely heart.

“Where are the mines with their turning spokes,

Lurking slag heaps, bolts of coal split with

Shimmering fools’ gold tumbling into waiting wagons?

Mostly what I came for was a last glimpse

Of the rock hanging over my cot, that towering

Sheerness fifty fathoms high screed with ferns

And failing tree roots, crumbling footholds

And dour smile. A monument needs to be known

For what it is, not a tourist slot or geological stratum

But the dark mentor loosing wolf’s bane

At my sleeping head.”

When the coach lurches over the county boundary,

If not Hughes’ voice then Heaney’s or Hill’s

Ringing like miners’ boots flinging sparks

From the flagstones, piercing the lens of winter,

Jutting like tongues of crooked rock

Lapping a mossed slab, an altar outgrown,

Dumped when the trumpeting hosannas

Had finally riven the air of the valley.

And I, myself, what did I make of it?

The voices coming into my head

Welcoming kin, alive or dead, my eyes

Jerking to the roadside magpie,

Its white tail-bar doing a hop, skip and jump.

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