Split and shaped

It’s as if they said, three hundred years ago, this
is a house, a flat-sided box with a door
and small plain windows, two storeys
of fired or quarried country,

my country, grey upon brown upon grey,
gathered in patches and swathes
amid the irrepressible green —
the fields, trees, hedges, lawns —

gathered in blocks and rows among the poles,
wires, rails, signs, business buildings in
concrete or ridged metal, the Industrial
Revolution in its birthplace and I in mine,

clutching my BritRail pass (its sleek train
amid the green, its precious printed month)
in long Viking fingers as Viking Saxon
Norman Celtic English, my English,

articulates the air at my Hamlet ears
I hang them with earrings of dark Honister slate,
the rock my grandfather and uncle rived until
the pit closed, the Industrial Revolution

offshoring itself and I its child, clutching—
but British Rail is gone, the network sectioned
like it was in its youth, George and Robert
Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Those names! their everywhere flourish, grey
upon brown upon grey amid the indefensible
green, chimneys cleaving the low sky
the signature of old work

The Aga burns coal in the seventeenth-century
guesthouse, my father born in its front bedroom,
its face of ancient lava plastered
with ivy, its third Mrs Jackson my aunt

My uncle points out his extensions: porch,
kitchen, teashop, looking craggy and venerable
Your grandfather built that garden wall, he says
In the bookshop I read about dry stone walling

My father tried it with orange Australian rocks
but all he got were cairns
I take my Wordsworth ears
by bus from Stonethwaite to Keswick

for two modest pieces of country, her strata
split and shaped into delicate abstract leaves,
as cool as autumn rain, buffed smooth
in the back room, divided by a silver line

Winner of the 2019 Ros Spencer Poetry Prize
First published on wapoets.com, August 2019
Published in Brushstrokes: Ros Spencer Poetry Prize Anthology 2016-2019, WA Poets Publishing 2019.

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