David Kessel

Hillside, Llangattock

We think with our shoulders.
On the lime-quarried hillside
down a stony lane lined with ash and hazel
a poor disused chapel where
fierce hymns give men courage.
Hardship on this hillside, riven
by lime and bracken, thistle and scree.
A cold, slow rain on a cottage in the dell
mortared with the blood of quarrymen hill-farmers.
Sheep grieve above the oak wood
where a mistle-thrush storms hell.
A feral cat hunts the black redstart; so rare, so shy.
November beeches aflame, as many
fallen leaves as slain quarry men.
Resistance of pain in the chest and spat gob.
From a dry-stone wall, Jenny Wren's song
holier than remembrance.
Dangerous to take the sheep track at dusk.
The blessedness of February wind
through an old goat-willow.
Here men pray with their stomachs:
the gnarled upland cabbage in a broth with barley.
The language of hunger: an alcoholic's lack.
The crow and the fox pick the dead lamb clean.
Springtime in the valley and the hawthorn blooming.


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