The Lake In Winter

I always end up writing about the lake – I don’t know why. It’s only a minute from my front door – so perhaps it’s the easy access which makes me choose that dog-walking route rather than any other. And I always have something to write about.

The lake is constantly changing – for the last ten days it has had a crust of ice on it – sometimes three or four inches thick, sometimes transparent as cellophane

This is a diary poem – a marker for something I saw, which I don’t want to forget.

Lake – January 2018

Light leaks into the air;
clouds take their substance
from the the morning twilight.

The stripped trees hold
magpies  sneering,
clattering their wings.

The grass is blanched with frost,
puddles splintered glass
and the lake alive
with shifting rafts of ice

where a swan struggles

snake neck stretched,
webs strive for grip
as white wings thrash the water,
till it lifts, makes the air
sing with every wingbeat.

 

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Shortest day of the year

The shortest day of the year – grey, damp and forgettable. Digby the dog and I are standing, looking out across the lake. It’s shaped like a kidney bean, half a mile or so round, and fringed with trees and bushes, with a stretch of rough woodland along one side. And it is entirely artificial, created as an open space when all the surrounding houses were built in the seventies and eighties. Except today the lake has gone. Usually you can look out and see the geese and the magpies and the line of trees across the far end. But this morning there is nothing – just a blanket of soft mist covering the water. We set off on our usual circuit, the world on our left and the gently shifting emptiness on our right. The mist is moving, coiling, reaching out towards the bank, then curling away, like water starting to boil. For a moment it draws back and I see a fleet of Canada geese, silent, still, like a fleet of Nelsonian men o’war at anchor.

The mist is gathering together – a muffled drumbeat getting louder and faster as I listen. A swan bursts. out of the mist, white wings wiffling through the air, webs plashing the water, lifting into the swirling mist and out of sight.

Thanks. and Christmas wishes  to all those who have followed me over the last year.

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Water – three poems

Stream

I used to fish that beck for trout
where it flowed thinly down a weir
to a dark pool beneath.

Below the fizzing damsel flies,
the shards of splintered sunlight
lay gravel beds and pebbles
strands of weed
green banners streaming.

Trout lurked there, hovering,
winnowing the flow
for nymphs and water bugs.

One afternoon I took a round half dozen,
the line twitching between my fingers,
rod tip dipping to the water.

On this grey morning, frost
sheathes every blade of grass,
the brook runs sullen
under dirty ice.

All things are withered
and stilled
under a crust of cold.

Lake
Late October, when the world
shifts towards winter.
Trees stripped, leaves slimy underfoot
and the lake, jittery with wavelets
slopping and sucking at the bank.

That’s when they come, riding
the cold rivers of air-
Canadas and Greylags in their tribes
chattering like children
as the land unwinds below –
matchbox roofs, glittering windows,
the slow uncoiling roads.

Then a splash of spilt metal
silver in the low sun.
They turn, tipping the wind
from their wings
as the lake leaps upward
brushing their wide webs
with a silky hiss.

 

River

From the rock, a miracle.
Water, the colour of sky,
cold as the caverns
it came from, glittering
into the morning world
and down the hill.

Wily as a cat, it twists
and splits round shingle banks.
Shape-shifter scooping deep
still pools for trout to loiter in.

Gathers to itself the becks and burns,
the brooks, the runnels and the rivulets,
puts on muscle, hurls its berserker howl
against the valley walls then
cleaves a crack, a man might leap,
and bludgeons a way through.
A sheet of sliding amber takes
the evening light, transforming it
to gold, imparts a fine polish
to wet stones and fronds of weed.