Caught by the River


22nd April 2012

A poem by Mike Laycock.

I walk the countryside, its woods and ways,
armed with a little knowledge,
amidst a litter of ignorance
A black arrowing blackbird fletches across the path,
its yellow bill, a beacon to the dark leafy way
I climb over supine elms levelled by the windage
of abundant, scraggy rook’s nests,
into the forgotten graveyard,
where only the ash trees rise and
Drunken headstones reel crazily
over a sea of sunken bones
I discover deer prints beside Viner’s pond
What looks like otter’s too
From flooded fence-posts, cormorants gargoyle me,
strangers to my youth
Under one of the tallest viaducts in Britain,
long unused by the steam-trains,
hauling limestone, from a bleached quarry
I find the blue bricks aerosoled with graffiti-art
Unsigned archways highlighted by
slanting sunlight in a striking
shock of the new that stuns me
Beneath the central archway, the sinuous Don
quietly winds through a Sylvanian landscape
beckoning me homeward to its sweetened waters
Encroaching willows whisper the assurance,
‘we’re not drinking the poison you knew,
the foul sewer your mother feared, come be
baptised a Yorkshireman again’
It’s so appealing this quixotic Don silting at the feet
of old steel mills and mine-workings re-forged
to ‘Retail Worlds’ and sports centres
and then there’s its humble squire,
the Dearne, reborn into
a trout-stream, industrial muck forgotten,
de-toxed, a bastard birth abandoned
A sudden, leafy squall riffles my notebook,
turning the poetry over to the fright of a blank page
I drop it carelessly onto the wet earth
where its leaves are dampened like enthusiasm
This in the lover’s grove where
couples used to lie on beds of shiny,
‘Mermaid’s Hair’ grass
Those secret hollows are gone, instead
dirt tracks scar, tooled by swarms of
mini-motorbikes, the once glorious emerald
green, burned like tide-stranded
kelp on an unloved shore
Pods of flesh-pierced adolescents squat
licking spliff papers, swearing
with every ungrammatical sentence
And this corner of my youth
where old men used to spy on young love,
is now a desecrated temple.