A Sworn Telling of Some Difficulty, With True Names of English Places and Persons
From Nethercleave over Rudha Bridge
on the Northway. At Ley Farm, hunger.
At Venton, the scab. On the rise, emptiness
as far as The Hill. From Pendle’s Down Farm,
smoke. (That ruined hearth His spirit-mouth
and there three under ten received heat
of His word and were burnt beyond.)
The Weir a chapel step for want of rain.
From dry throats unbidden praise
came murmuring at Monkleigh Wood.
At Footlands by the sizzle of flies
it was reckoned the whole drove had spoiled
a week in the sun. We would not face
otherwise from that and breathed the certainty
of our own deliverance, for He is as
amply realmed in one atom of sullied air
as He is in water of mint or myrrh smoke.
To hazard or not the Fingerstone was weighed
then amongst us. Elder Able on his haunches,
holding it, asked of the darkness in his hat
the way. At Van’s Wood, Destroying Angel
at the clearing’s edge was deliberated over
with no heart abiding in bitterness long
but some, dazed at the purity of cap
and stem, wax-white in the half-shade,
sat then mute on the turf. I was one
who raised her voice, and Elders Able
and Dusteby made to stopper my mouth
by laying on of hands and feet. Symptoms
of poisoning. What familiar, I cried,
did purr and gloze in Able’s crown,
that he would so often mutter into it
and attend to the darkness therein?
The Lord sighed then, and we the fettlers-
under of His leafy machinery quivered
in the rattle and roar. So was He weaver
of that moment and, moment by moment,
of all that had been and will be by Him
pieced and doffed. Assigned we then those two
to silence and passed from there to Lock’s Beam.
Jacob Polley’s last book, Jackself, won the 2016 T.S. Eliot Prize.