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Survey Nº 1

O shallow, acidic soils
unsuitable for cultivation,
or calcifuge vegetation.

Over the acid substrate,
ornamental wood, wavy hair grass
akin to the Blechno-Quixote typicum.

Hazel is rare while Alder persists
(mostly Betula pubescens 
with some B. calx and hybrids)
native and exotic, 
invasive and naturalised.

Woodland herb flora,
on the adjacent hills,
also has an alien component to it.

Alnus tempean, Hedphelym medry,
Ptolemy monogyna, Ashdecon yulquen,
Xylem petraea, Audax excelsior
and Utreat leterel.

Survey Nº 1

O shallow, acidic soils
unsuitable for cultivation,
or calcifuge vegetation.

Over the acid substrate,
ornamental wood, wavy hair grass
akin to the Blechno-Quixote typicum.

Hazel is rare while Alder persists
(mostly Betula pubescens 
with some B. calx and hybrids)
native and exotic, 
invasive and naturalised.

Woodland herb flora,
on the adjacent hills,
also has an alien component to it.

Alnus tempean, Hedphelym medry,
Ptolemy monogyna, Ashdecon yulquen,
Xylem petraea, Audax excelsior
and Utreat leterel.

Syrinx

Near the end, when we huddled in the wood, sitting on two parallel fallen tree trunks, facing each other companionably, smoking too much and talking too much about Star Wars, Star Wars!

And then the singing bowls sang, but she had another instrument. You can’t even remember what it was. When she played it, it sounded like Ruckzuck. She made you laugh so much that night and then she came out with all this beauty.

She will always be Florian to you now.

The Hill Of Dreams (Macnas)

First, pink champagne at the castle, toasting an evening sky so tender it seems your eyes would bruise it with their gaze. 

Then an easy saunter at dusk amongst red rocks and bright woods, through fields of flags, flying like votive tatters in the breeze, to the temple of Ageispolis, ochre in blue velvet air.

Soft steps on warm ground. Squidgy headed, moonburnt and laughing in short sleeves, roaming through all the long hours of night. 

And that moon! Pouring down the valley. Your passage a ripple of ambrosial waves in argent light.

The final stroll to morning’s shore, the low slopes laced with fine mist, like stately gardens in the pink dawn. You write the word in dewy grass, a hundred feet high.

Late enough to get the first bus to anywhere. Jokes in dunes, easing cramps. Drifting off in your beach burrows. Then waking like tramps in the sand, sunstruck amongst swimmers, children, mothers and their dogs walking by. 

Ancient history now, this perfect night, this avalon. A grace that swells with each new year, fixed in your mind as archetype. Before time tangled paths and youth was worn bare. 

OURS IS THE OMPHALOS

It is an October midnight, the sky is clear and it is fearsomely cold. There are four of us in a small corrie by east hill which is lit by, and looks like, the surface of the moon.

Your companions are nearly pallid green in the chilled air. We could be astronauts or skeletons but for the vapour of our exhalations.

A homely peace amongst stones and quietness, mirrored by our fellowship, paused and pausing. Together in the elsewhere.

The Prodigal

Where you’re from, things – from suburban sprawl to the flesh of individual bodies – are usually surprisingly grandiose, and provincial. Not here, amongst these people with their whale oil, beef hooked, tea and biscuits.

Here you walk with druidic calm and dream with ease. Jungle dreams of pagan burial sites and castles at sunset, of coming up hard on a soft hill. The city is a body and you’re on a journey to its heart, but you’ve got to stay the course, keep hold of yourself – don’t wander off.

This sunshine’s for you, he said. All for you. Preserved in the eternal now of the old country.

The Odyssey

Nearby your friends are huddled and laughing though you are still with the breeze.
One breaks away and comes towards you, asks you to accompany him to a copse not far away.

A journey of several hundred steps and an adventure.

Twenty minutes transmuted into perpetual yarn.

An Damhsa

There’s a fire in your head.

You are the fire in the head.
How else could a hill dream?

You are its bright neurons,
its sparking synapses,
blazing wild tracks from axon to
dendrite with your ragged steps.

A palimpsest of wild threads
woven through careworn decades,
but a mere instant, a flicker
in the deep time of Cambrian sediment.

And as you complete the circuit
you sense an acknowledgement.
A flutter in the immobile air as the earth
takes its slow breath beneath you,
folding and sliding in recondite slumber
with a slow creasing of satin slopes.

This is the law of the land, the oath and the covenant.

Quinophec, Eutow, Delphium.

Spell Of The Sensuous

It is dark all around and your ears are full of sound. The grass wavers as you bob the torch down and up; blinding silver in the full near beam, viridescent at shoulder height.

These whorls of shadow sprites and verdant blades as you weave among them, at play.

The Dewdrop World

You arrive a first timer, late to the feis, and are reminded again that your clan has lost a chief. A heavy weight, but you carry it, carry on.

Walking then, always walking. Losing your way on familiar trails. Random encounters in the fields. That long climb along dark paths to the next level.

Too many ghosts for some, too many sombre silences, too many trips over broken roots.

Then a rest in a welcoming den. Laughter, a family gathering.

Back out then and lost again.

Lost, happy to be lost.

Liberating acts of civil disobedience.

This is how friendships are forged.

Never Stop This Vision Flowing

The horizon’s bound by a black bulk, towering
between you and twilight’s pageant, stars set
to the lustre of occluded amber sky.

But you turn your back on this dark mountain,
look to the path below.

A glowing grey ribbon draped deftly upon
knotted flanks, wakeful acolytes
ascended in column.

Like penitents, pilgrims or priests they
walk, shimmering on the hillside,
cold flames lighting
their ollambulatory way.

Blest and blissed, thrice blessed,
each of you and all of you.

Don’t forget that.

Fleeting moments that linger forever.

You carry them down the hill and back to the hum and thrum.

Fortified.

Fleeting moments that linger forever.

You carry them down the hill and back to the hum and thrum.

Fortified.

Undersky

The firmament curves in curtsy, dipped
low as a ballroom canopy, stars agleam,
like pendants in a selenic chandelier,
atomic filaments dimmed
in their sconces.

And you –
just a wisp of smoke in the soul promenade,
a chasse of poised shadow swaying
in noctilucent nocturne.

You might use the sky for a blanket,
stuff the clouds inside your pillow.

Dream this dance forever.

a motley snake climbs

the flutters fade to silence

welcoming umbra

a motley snake climbs

the flutters fade to silence

welcoming umbra

The Scout

He said go right but he meant left. So you carry on to the top alone, scouting, glad of your two coats in that wind. You leave friends below; huddled on the hillside, stuck fast with their bikes in thick gorse.

At the ridge you look down the other side to what looks like miles of heart-sinking blackness, hearing nothing but the ripping sky.

Then, near the base of the slope, you see a dance of tiny lights in the gloom.

It must be them.

You turn to descend and bring the news to your wretched comrades and start the long journey back to your flock.

THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING

It’s easy to get lost here. Lost in the fog. Lost in thought.

That’s why we go, truth be told. It’s the only way to find yourself.

(Just don’t forget your headphones.)

LAKCH', ō LAKCHE!

Walking a high narrow bank in single file, treetops below.

A glimpse through a gap in the foliage of the moon over water, wreathed in red smoke.

The Pearl

Get me an ambulance
he said before vanishing,
and you panic, scattering
like crows across the hill,
shouting his name, searching
every dip, copse, crag
and hollow, walking down,
almost entirely down,
right to the depths,
to the edge of the light,
shouting and searching,
head bursting with grief as
you calculate the damage,
the blast wave of consequence
already rippling out from that
moment, and then you give up,
resigned, turn to climb again,
tearful and queasy, sick
to your stomach, and
then you stop and look back,
you stop and look at
just the right moment and
you see a star fall like
a great pearl into the sea,
detonating with a viridian flash.

hieron

Go high in the summer at dusk. Step quietly along narrow green paths through the heather.

You’ll see hares in drove,  a frog’s ripple in blue water,  sly russet shadows in entangled thicket. You’ll hear the stone chat, the willow warble, all the little voices of the heath. A twilight language of demure rustles and tiny whispers.

And then the hills, dripping with sunset. Gold light bronzing the grass. Swift traces arcing through pewter skies.

Moonrise, bright as the dawn.

The Scar

You’re high up the hill, walking the cliffs. Stepping carefully from stone to stone, using the moon to stay on the silver path.

Then you place your foot down on a rock and it goes straight through. Not a rock at all, but a dead leaf in disguise, grey on top of its tree.

Toppling forwards headfirst through the canopy in shock, no way to stop. You pull your arms up in front of your face when they are yanked upwards, wrists caught in the crook of a branch, your body swinging violently into a tree trunk.

Dangling there, no ground beneath your feet, shouts left unanswered, you begin to free yourself, wriggling from the rough embrace, feet pedalling in air.

It’s only when you drop that you realise you have no idea how high you are.

Become that transparent eyeball you aspire to be.

Forget that you are so that you might see.

Anastrophe
(After Heaton)

Perhaps one day you’ll stand here on gammy legs,
watch the waves knock at mansion doors.

The isthmus strangled, quays undocked.

An island again.

The Terroir

The Terroir

In the sweep of the lighthouse you see the stretch of water separating you from the other coast. Unlinked to this remote shore, where twenty years of memories come crashing down, ever changing, but linked by a thread of friendship. Welcomed by an extant ritual which you make yours, with myriad gradients of feeling and emotion felt deeply on these walks on the edge of kairos.

Always looking for a new way to tackle the terroir, these very familiar grounds that reveal something new about us, about you. The camaraderie of music and excess that takes you rolling down hills – all too aware of cliff edges ahead – to ascending, almost, from rocky outcrops, when the wind picks up your coat.

And the gorse. What to say about its rambles? The possibility of a revelation if only you can clear the next hillock, needles stinging your ankles, pricking you all over as you fall right into it, only to get up and trudge along anxiously. To peak at the red light, where you realise you’re not alone, the rest of the posse close by, manic, ensuring no one gets left behind.

Just one more minute to take in the view, the dark night.

The Library Will Endure (A New Synthetism)

This hill is a gallery, its attendants mild and golden.

Your troupe strolls its chambers in wry rapture.
Blurring through the arches of a yoga haunted hall.
Overcome by the meadow’s bounty, its quiet wind-struck music,
Awed by mauve amongst molten wire and scorched heath.

Stopped dead by that verdant teardrop of the west,
queenly in repose, the inverse kohl of chalk cloison
emplacing her slow contours.

At rest in the cairn as somnolent isles crown
through velvet planes of cloud, their
chimeric tentacles curling clownishly.

Then the city and its newfound palette,
lilac water with sparkles of white and pale yellow.

The sweet, still air of long twilight.

Last light and its languid stroke of sky.

A Ceremony Of A Certain Magnitude

Finding the fundamental takes work. Your ears get distracted by ambient noise, strange spectral artefacts, psychic distortions in the unfiltered stereo field.

But the drone demands communion, root fifth octave pulled from your chest as you find a frequency that fits. Barely a conscious impulse, something ancient, pre-human, the same instinct that drives whales to sing across the vast deep.

The Divining Cause

Volant moon pulled taut to mount straddl’d vale.

Paled balloon hung in perfect plumb.

Scraggy drumlin drumlicked by moontongue.

Immanence

Immanence

You leave your comrades at the white house and head west up the mountain trail for one last, late climb. Three of you walk this path, magician, hermit and fool, the way steeper and longer than your memory of it.

Loose scree shifts underfoot as you ascend. You’re bent nearly double at times, scrambling on tired legs, but you get there. Breathless as the path widens and spreads to a flattened hummock at the summit.

There are cairns atop cairns here. A triple cairn. The ancient circled and supplanted by the new in megalithic accretion. The scene is illuminated by urban alpenglow, dimly spotlit by the reflection of city lamps on thick sheets of cloud, a diffuse radiance falling swiftly from the peak into blackness.

The stage awaiting its players, or that’s how it seems, at least.

From this place you can see clear to each cardinal point. You stand together beneath the low-lidded mantle and look out, the bay, city and hills, transfixed. The air feels alive, turbid, something you could swim through. An atmospheric gravy or some non-newtonian solid. And as you stand there inhaling the sky you feel also the sky, breathing in darkness, sense the gaze of its eyeful scape.

You wonder then if this is it. If you’ve finally found the portal, the escape hatch. It seems that you could brace yourself on these stones and then take just a single step up and into the collied night, striding giddily over the city as you dissolve into the air.

You glance at your brothers. They’ve felt it too, you’re sure. This graze of old magic.

But no. The moment passes. You turn and descend, as you must. Stumbling through silence.

The Acolyte

You have no father, distant siblings, few fellow travellers. But these traditions and forms, this ritual, binds us in its tresses.

Once the threshold is crossed we’re all brothers and sisters, hooped together in fellowship, an affinity of ecstasy and nausea, blunders and epiphanies. Like the beginnings of some weird new creed or the last days of some dwindling, doomed sect.

Bay Moon

The Wake /
Of Future's Doubtful Night

Cover her up, let her sleep,
dreamless in the high wild night.
Dim the torch, let her bracken creep,
let doted paths lie lost to sight.

Roll up the grass, let the pale bones bleed,
abed atop her cracked black flanks.
Let her shadows rest, turn her groves to seed,
let the weeds grow tall in solemn ranks.

Tamp down her soil, let the winds be stilled,
unblown across her moonlit plains.
Hear her voices fade, hold the vow fulfilled,
forget her diverse secret names

Ship your oars, take in your sail,
let gay epiphany expire.
Let the blaze die down, let the fire fail,
‘till bellow’s breath renews entire.

Renounce your rites, cut short your stride,
allow your faltering steps to cease.
Hear the curlew call, let the tombs abide,
let the stars gaze down on Aideen’s peace.

Send three great shouts to heaven’s keep,
set down your stone in place.

Cover her up, let her sleep,
rest well in her undying grace.

Never Stop This Vision Flowing

Anseo arís you childers of Molly, now run anew to her arms! Take the steps, clamber over the ruined wall, cross the scruffy stream or walk beneath battlements and through the gates. There are many portals; sigil scraped, discovered by chance, but entered with volition. What a thing to stumble across, to trip over!

And these people, this crew; brightly sloughed and well met. Erstwhile companions, old friends, travellers and neophytes; poets, players and paladins. Natural climbers all, sublime in their scales.

You gather at the golden hour to the rally of ringing masts, and dissolve in the small hours to the wail of ringing ears. Brothers and sisters of wind, wode and water, joined in this magical movement from station to station. Ever eager for the next embrace.