November in Devon


Leaving Plymouth last seen after first smashed by bombs,
Driving North all the morning after rain
Towards Hartland’s hospitable hearth
Through landscapes clad in disruptive pattern
Material edged be hedge or walls of dry-stone:

Under a cover of commingling cloud and clear,
Drifts of drab haze transpierced by wet blue slate,
Between lofty moor and deep glen
Past lanes twisting off into the arcane
We spin towards midday’s strengthening sun.

After Launceston eleven o’clock approaches
At a thousand revs per minute four times
Beneath us: the car radio
Picks up brass playing Nimrod in Whitehall,
Rearousing a reticent love for this land.

While memory brings back like a sepia still
Holding my mother’s hand in a Bournemouth
Doorway during the first of all
Remembrance Days’ two minutes of silence,
Today I anticipate the advent of death.

A parade of folk sporting mass-produced poppies
In the next village briefly delays us
At a border-point round which spread
Areas of age-old non-violence.
In ivy-dark gardens hang white rags of late rose.

An abrupt paranoia wonders just how sure
One can be now that no secret convoy
Was out during last night on roads
Linking Hinckley Point and Bull head, that near-
by tin-mines or tumuli hide no lethal hoards.

At half my age this might have worried me more.
The South country kept my childhood secure.
Now I know that to Whinny-moor
Before long I shall come, as one more year
Declines towards departure in deceptive calm.

from Selected Poems (Enitharmon, 1994), copyright © David Gascoyne 1994, used by permission of the Estate of David Gascoyne and the publisher.

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