I went alone by old canals
And saw the gardens grown from waste
Coal-heap compost, newspaper paste
And smelt the raindrops’ funerals.
Around a reedy, autumn pond
A wary grasp of sycamores
And mortal ash trees marked with flaws
Where wire fences scarred their bond.
Upon the puddles ripples ring;
The sky begins to decorate
The garden with a water-weight
And smack the mud, and patterns bring.
It is a partial sanctuary;
Aided and abetted, rich,
Leafmould rotting in a ditch,
A very sullen place to be.
The lonely walk I’ve taken here
Has led past corners where we laughed
And where we drank a loving draught
And where we shared a pint of beer.
How could it not, when every street
Has been a place we’ve known and shared?
When every roadsign once declared
The city was our place to meet?
I cannot walk past cranes or trees,
Follow paths or railway lines
Without seeing speaking signs
Of what you sometime meant to me.
I had to go to somewhere new –
A place I never shared, and still
As up the tower I found my thrill
I wanted so to be with you.
The train fled through a concrete scar
Half across the garden fields,
Through the chalk your bone-land yields
Not long away – and yet too far.
I felt my trespass in a place
Reserved for our shared wanderings.
I cried to think of happy things –
Cold on the downs, your true embrace.
The beach is shingle and I read
That half the land is shingle too,
Five centuries worth of land born new
Where once the sea lay in its bed.
Each stone a flint plucked from the chalk
And rounded by the waves’ rough play
Until it found a place to stay
Where rustles are the stonefalls’ talk.
There is a castle on the marsh
Built by a famous, frantic King,
Now a ruin, crumbling
And eaten – rotten – broken – harsh.
Built there to stand upon the shore
But stranded by the passing tides
Each bringing stones, and wrack besides.
The sea is not there anymore.
Two miles inland – what a plain sign
For all those things we deem most firm.
The world will change, so ends the term
Of all possession – but chiefly mine.
I loved you till it creased my soul;
I changed my mind to want your shape
And feel the lack when you’d escape:
You did. I let the pebbles roll.
So starts an avalanche again –
The smallest stones move rocks.
The freest hearts are bound with locks
That rust like links in anchor-chain.