Something tolls, dead in the water,

from sixty years back; chimes

in the stonework of the brain

the way a mother’s voice is never

quite forgotten, the sounds of childhood

carry through somehow. And you

look downwards at the brink, knowing

that the eddies washing on this shore

have inhabited what’s left of life

that quit this valley by decree.

The banking stretches out behind you;

notices on poles advise against

a list of things from which the years

have cut you off, the way these waters have

from house and plot, familiar homes,

the chapel where you pumped the organ

for the psalms. Ignored, the gables rise

like bibles in a rack from where

you always knew they would, in time.

And now the drought has dropped

the level of the water twenty feet, enough

to recognise where lanes had been,

how houses all had hunkered in together,

formed the township that you left

to which you have returned, a memory

in someone else’s book: an old man

staring out across this reservoir, as deep

in thought as are the sounds

of church bells, accents, running water,

steeped in sixty years of loss.

from Dry Stone Work (Arc Publications 2014), © Brian Johnstone 2014, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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