In this poem, a farmhand is coming off the land at the end of the day, reflecting on whether they have done enough. It's written for someone who, at the time of writing, was leaving work due to ill health.
The day is late, later than the sun.
He tastes the dusk of things and eases down,
and feels the shade set in across the yard.
He never thought there’d be so much undone,
so much in need of planing: the haugh unmown
with its fist of bracken, the splinting of the cattle bar,
the half-attended paddock wall
scribbled with blackthorn and broke-wool.
Perhaps he could have turned the plough for one last till,
be sure, or surer, of where the seedling fell.
But then it’s not the ply that counts, but the depth of furrow,
knowing the take was deep and real, knowing the change was made.
And field by field the brown hills harvest yellow.
And few of us will touch the landscape in that way.
from Ground Water (Bloodaxe, 2004), © Matthew Hollis 2004, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books