Saturday, 9 October 2010

Readings from the Hearth and Chester's Roman Walls

To Chester, on the 6th, for the Chester Poets reading the next day - National Poetry Day. A fine and sunny day for travelling on the Transpennine train to Manchester, changing for Shotton. The valleys of the lake district, remembering long ago journeys with my parents, to visit my sister in Gloucester, before the motorway was built, taking the old road to Shap, the slow lorries on the steep hills.

The old road is visible from the railway, and a few trucks, looking as small as if viewed through the long lens of time, appear like the past, accomplice of this present journey in the train that sways and rattles through a landscape still a little startled at these brief and recent travellers.

Recent in the hills' memory at least, accustomed to the wide sweep of birds' wings, the calling of hill sheep, the opening of the flowers in spring, and the falling of their petals in the autumn. This shuffling train still feels like an intruder through these valleys, however small it tries to make itself.

someone has spilled gold paint
on the tree tops -
a passing deity, his bucket brimfull
distracted maybe by the light and the sparse pines
that lean into the green and folded land

The reading was at the Commercial Hotel in Chester, tucked behind narrow lanes of medieval buildings, leaning walls and patterned brickwork, echoing alleyways with sealed up secrets and a light plastering of time, sprinkled with subtle lighting from old lamps. Or so it seemed to me. A spattering of night shadows, and great company.

The theme of this year's Poetry Day was Home. The room we read in had an old fireplace with the microphone for the reader just in front of it so one was actually standing in the hearth. Poems from the Hearth somebody quipped.

The next day, yesterday, Sally, Maureen and I walked round Chester's Roman walls.

the stones that form the city wall
are rounded with time's heat and chill -
with its shawl of wet or windy memories -
red stones, red and yellow trees -
the canal is now the silent sentine

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