I was born not far from the Lake District, and a year's residency at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere gave me a very welcome opportunity to return. During my time there, I used Ordinance Survey maps a great deal on my walks. And this poem, named after the river Brathay, I think of as a love song to Ordinance Survey maps.
I love to see these symbols on the map –
the cross, the less-than-4-metres-wide road,
the pub (named even). And I love
to see us as symbols and everything
we saw: the two men
chess-playing at Skelwith Fold
in back-porch sunshine, mark it
with T for tranquility. Put a P
in the graveyard for picnic (teabread,
coffee). An A just there on the verge
for sapling (ash) – how much growth
that summer? And the bend in the road
a double S for smiles (the greengold
light, the veneer of wood-water,
the tilt). And a capital J for summer
(joy), and a D for don’t
(let this end), and a G and T left behind
at the pub (empty), and a capital U
for God saying I and the entire
universe wish this walk well.
By the Brathay and the underwater
bubbles that began us, an M
for completion by moonlight.
And all over, write, in full:
The Dazzle of this World.
from Intimates (Jonathan Cape, 2005) © Helen Farish 2005, used by permission of the author and The Random House Group Ltd.