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The Great Oak – Sherwood Forest by Alan Smith

A single acorn fell, a millennium and some, ago,
With sun and light and rain I lived, survived.
Out lived my kind, now centuries long gone
Now I’m alone in silent majesty

I, this Great Oak, stand majestic
Amid my surrounding sylvan kind
I’ve been known to many Sherwood traveller,
Their shelter for a thousand years, and more.

Robin of Loxley passed my way,
First Earl, then outlaw he.
(Sheriff’s men rode close behind him),
He hid in my arms, in garb of Lincoln Green.

Pleasant peasant folk try their worldweary best
To survive ‘neath my canopy of green.
Truffle hunter’s sniffing dogs nuzzle fallen leaves,
While hunter dreams of that elusive earthbound gold.

Many times have I, this Mighty Oak, so strong,
Faced the worst, the very worst of seasons wrath.
I’ve seen springtime gales and summers burning,
Then autumn winds that foretell winter’s chilling white.

Now needing help from timbers that supports,
My ‘friends’ that keep me standing tall.
Fenced in, no one approaches, none come to stand by me,
No touch, no hugs, but dogs approach, still nuzzling leaves!

Though now I stand assisted,
I reign supreme o’er all I see before me.
Still standing tall in Sherwood, should reign another thousand years.
Who, mankind will be cut down first, me or thee?

That outcome, not what I want or wish,
Rather, we survive together, strong. We do belong
Together. Know this mankind, you need to change, and fast
Else, very soon, we’ll take that breath that could be our very last.

I, (and my kind), try hard for you,
That oxygen you need to live was ours, we gave it freely,
But with toxins that you and yours release to us
We can no longer guarantee to breath you life.

More than lip service and target setting is required,
Action is needed, and that action straight away, I tell you.
Else there will be no actions that you may take,
For all will be too late, then you and I await, our final ever nearing fate!

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At the Bottom of Kielder Water by Joe Williams

‘There are villages,’ they said.

Houses, and a school, a church,
and if you swam down far enough
you’d find them, could poke your head
inside, like a goldfish in a shell.

But someone else said ‘Bollocks,’
they knocked it all down long before
they let the water in.

As if that makes a difference.

As if the ghosts of Plashetts don’t
still float between their sodden rooms,
backstroke to the village shop
for milk, bread, the Chronicle,
news from yet-unsmothered towns
where trout don’t pass through walls,
and not everybody knows what it’s like
to feel the water rising
over their heads.

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The Castle on the Hill by Verity D, Year 7 LGGS

At the top of a hill is where I stand,
Often forgotten but always there,
To tourists I’m just an attraction,
But my history holds lots of action,
On winter days I’m hidden by the mist,
So camouflaged, I’m easily missed,
Cars drive past, some see, and some don’t,
The wind keeps my flag held high,
And I often dread the days that it is only halfway to the sky,
The keys to me are kept very hidden,
All the way in London in a big palace fit for a king,
The local homeowners get to see my beauty in the morning,
But I think others forget to even see up from their phone unlocking,
Before phones came into this universe,
I was the only thing that made them feel that they were away from the outside world,
When cars speed past,
Their engines roar and release sour gas,
It sometimes damages my bricks and puts people off because of the mist,
I wish it was like the old time when people took carriages and pointed out my gates to their kids,
Now all they do is look past what lies behind my bricks,
So, if you ever see me on a walk or in the car,
Please come and see all that lies behind my golden crest.

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The Italian Chapel Orkney by Jules Telford

Dark,dark times when these island shores of sandy bays
Became a tin prison of closed doors and walls.
Camp 60’s chapel built with endless resource
Of throw away wood, metal and tin.
Warmth and peace alongside grey war fuelled concrete sea barriers.

Simple, bold designs of blues and golden yellows
And copied figures of religious finesse to rival any village Italian chapel.
History sits here of worship and search for greater purpose
Than sheer existence on these wild ,rugged shores.

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Living in circular harmony by Jules Telford

The wild and rugged cliff plunging north west tip of Orkney,
We wander here to visit not live,
To be entranced by endless power of white rolling waves,
To listen to pounding sea and shrieking gulls,
To taste the saltiness on our lips
And watch the seals gambol in the sea.

We search out the desolate and untamed,
And look in awe at thousands of years ago dwellings of invaders from other shores,
Who also gazed on this and knew of no other way to live
But in circular harmony with who and what is still here.

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The Singing Stones by Bean Sawyer

Risen from boggy moor,
prehistoric monument of spotted dolerite
points to the stars.

They sing, they sing!
Bedd Arthur, ring!

Along the foggy golden road
sleeping Draig stretches
to the Irish sea.

Clacking bells, knocking bones!
Arthur’s knights, turned to stone!

I will follow ghosts
through mud and mire
to plant my hands in this ancient land.

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To the Sea by Bryony Rogers

Your flesh stretches, reaches for the midday sun
through laughing pores and fingertips that trace the line of my arm. A song
is singing us, ancient melodies

through hand and voice and heart. A song from across dry valleys
and derelict places, singing out
towards the sea.

We don’t make it to the sea, this time – but my tongue
tastes salt on the edge of your neck, finds water
deep in your mouth. I breathe

more. Our

fingers dance each other’s palm, while a bird traces an invisible wind. I rest
against you, feathering your skin
with kisses. None of it lasts – not the way pain
or stone

last, hidden
deep in the pores, in the forgotten cells, down
where the roots cling. It

changes –

the way pain and stone change; washed over by the incoming tide, released
in the light of morning, made
whole.

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The Carpenter’s Bench by Wendy Haslam

Among wood shavings and dust
he stands at his bench.
That solid, sturdy bench.
Through the window, light
picks out the weathered surface
it’s history held in deep cuts,
stains of bleeding oil cans and
drips of red undercoat.

With eyes unseeing, he stares
out onto his tiny, tidy patch of green.
Seeing a moment before the bench
before the shed
before this house, this town,
before this wife,
before five children.
Before his mind split open.
Before, when he could speak,
when he could smile.

One moment: when
like all the men
boots thick with mud
a rifle in one hand,
his brother beside him
about to leave the trench.
one moment as the barrage lessened
– short seconds between explosions.
One moment when
he still had a brother.

The scene plays again and again until
a sound unlike war, calls him back.
Wearily he looks around,
runs a hand over the bench-
its solidity, its reality-
before he sees the child,
touches the half finished toy
and begins for a moment
to forget.

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In Hirst Woods by Cora Greenhill

Joints creak, muscles ache
in shins and thighs and hips on the uphill plod.

Feet crunch quietly on a mattress of beechnuts
as my gait sways, knees twinge, tramping down

to a bottom where dry flakes of tree skin
litter a damp clabber of mulch

and moist, sour branches: scabby, redundant limbs
loll helpless in time’s pull, fold, pack and pressure.

Massive fulling hammers at Hirst Mill
robbed this glade of silence for a century.

Children and women worked all hours to soften
stuff for clothes, felting the warp and weft of wool

for those who could afford it. Old age
wants good upholstery, needs give.

I slip from a fallen trunk, unyielding as corvid calls,
to the thick, slubbed tweed of the forest floor

gaze up at ancient beeches, pollarded
like organ pipes, rippling sunlit branches

soaring skywards,
rope tricks of light

long naked limbs shot through
with syrupy, sappy life.

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Pity the Lune by Rowland Crowland

Rain falls pure from the heavens
On the fell where ravens hail,
And gathers as the River Lune
At Ravenstonedale,
Then laughs and trills
In falls and rills
And innocently glides
Towards the foot of Borrowdale,
Where Romans killed or compromised.
Then youthful and exuberant,
Gorging mountains, downward flows,
Where trains dash
And cars crash,
And every day bloody the roads.
But pretty lies the prospect
Of green Lonsdale by the kirk,
And underneath the bridge that lies
Where Christians did the Devil’s work.
Then, hesitant and faltering,
Unsure of what’s to come,
Twist and turns
To plot a course back home.
But, drawn away inexorably,
Westward to the sea,
Where crooked destiny now leads
And creeps inevitably
Into the town where black clouds hung
And righteous hymns
To Him were sung,
Whilst all the time His traps were sprung
On Gallows Hill
Where witches swung.
A town where beggars still doss down
In the dark,
In the municipal park,
Deserted and doomed.
And past the quayside where slaves, festooned
With chains, in pain, stood,
Marooned in their new home,
Never to return to Sierra Leone,
Lost and alone.
Leave them all alone!
And rush down to the strand,
To the wet sand
Where plovers land,
And flee!
Far out into the Irish Sea!
And bathe in equanimity,
And drown!
Far, far away from people,
And from towns!

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Three Houses of Women by Jennifer Copley

No one knows how long this house has been here.
They say a stream used to run beside it.
Sometimes you can see ripples on the walls
that tell of the old days
when horses stood there and drank
and at night lay down like ghosts.
The house speaks its own language,
a strange tongue of whispers and shadows.
It tells of long dead Martha
and her household of women
who wrung out their rags in the stream
and called to each other under the wash line.
It tells of a child’s buried shoe, of a serving girl
giving birth in the cellar, of a sister who shaved
her chin and wore her brother’s clothes.

another house
tells of a daughter
kept indoors because she was plain
how she spent her days in the attic
rocking on an old wooden horse
how the reins and bridle were damp with tears
how the mane and tail were plaited so many times
and every time thinner how the girl got thinner refused to grow
how she learnt the language of horse

there was one more house that no one could see
it fell in the river brick by brick
there were no fish the water was polluted
the only language was scratched on stones
they say if you stand on the bank and listen
you’ll hear a door slam
the rattle of curtain rings sliding across
you might glimpse the woman who lives there
setting her place at the table for supper

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THE WIDOW’S HERBS (Mary Robson of Low Field, NE of Harelaws, d. circa December 1868) by Antony Christie

no matter to her now
if there is snow on the fells,
if the slope of her field funnels
the south east wind,
so it batters the chimney’s bones,
if the lightest of branches, stripped
of their black blotched leaves,
their twig ends honed
to stubs of grey steel,
claw at the limestone ribs,
cut smooth by blade axe or chisel,
roughened by storm,
as they hum with the season’s voices:
stone, wind, water.

pace out the long house,
the square barn: the walls are firm,
the door space welcoming.
step through, the lintel is solid;
within, enough of the room
where the melding
of ash and sycamore,
rowan or thorn, whatever
was stormfallen, broken,
ready for burning, softened
the acid fumes from the hard coal,
dried and part mineralized
the hanging herbs,
as she sat by her fading fire.

a sky roof now, a frame of uneven
stone for the changing seasons –
and whether her children
or granddaughter,
up from the new farm,
found her that early December,
the same day or the next ,
is no matter to us,
no matter to her now:
her voice is in the shards
that jut from the broken ground,
the needle’s slit eye,
the quiet of the bat laced evening
over the silent pond.

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THE METALWORKERS (who lived, worked, died and were buried about 5,000 years ago in what was later the in-by, between Harelaws and Kirkside Wood) by Antony Christie

and there are days in late spring
when the first sun at five in the morning
stains yellower than the brightest of beach sands,
than the glowing beads in the metalworkers’ stone pan,
the undulating heather, the piles of random stone
that fence in pasture and wood –

this is night’s end now,
though hardly night, the white hours
between those extravagant displays of sunset and sunrise
grazed with the lapwings’ flailing, the curlews’ bleak screams,
the silent but necessary malevolence of owls,
that haunt the riverside barns.

and there is the green cairn still
in the ridge field below Harelaws where
the skin trace of the copper workers, the goldsmiths,
is grey grease in the clay and a voice so distant that only
the sharpest of rodent ears can hear
the lost words

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1. HARELAWS (on the higher ridge, between field and fell, abandoned around 1885) by Antony Christie

imagine:
a wedge of rain,
a prism of drops,
the possibilities of thrown light
through a frame in a gable end
that is both sides sky

as more than
two of the four walls
unlucky storms and the most
observant of the valley bred masons
have tumbled to rubble,
built into new barns,

but a jamb of
shaped stone poised
now three degrees off true
and blocks of great limestone built
staircaselike at the north west corner
still balance a sliver of house

towards the
waxing moon, the sunrise
in spring and autumn, and those rare alignments
of celestial orbits when sun and moon
play firelight and darkness
through the dreamt glass.

so stasis earned?
no, nothing is certain now,
for a rowan seed lodged close in a pile of muck
at tupping time some twenty years ago,
bent to a full tree, spreads
greedy limbs and roots.

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RUINED by Angela Cheveau

In the ruins of me lay down your head
rest awhile, pitch a tent, watch night
flicker through the canopy of my ribs
stars revolving in the sky of my chest
but please, tread gently here,
let your footfall be soft
through my shadowed halls
my windswept, hollowed corridors,
I once was hallowed ground
my skin, a meadow of dancing, scattered light
so please, touch me gently, for
my walls hold hidden histories
unroll the secret scroll of my skin
climb the steps of my spine, a stone stairway rising
from the soft hillock of my buttock
stroke each cool, rocky, ridge
with the breaking dawn of your smile
listen, to the whistle of my breath as it whispers
my story across the long grasses
gild each of my flaws with the laquered gold
brushstroke of your lips
kiss each of my bones as if it were a relic
something precious unearthed
beneath the light of your eyes bury me
in your soft skin the bloom of the moon
a deep ache blossoming in the endless night of me,
Everywhere hurts.
Hold me lightly,
as if I were something sacred
a shard of stained glass,
a piece of broken pottery
perfect in the palm of your hand
hold me tenderly, hold me kindly,
as I need to believe that somewhere,
there is someone, who feels like home,
a warm hearth, a candle flickering gently,
welcoming me back in from the dark.
I need to believe there is someone,
who in the ruins of me, will still find a place to lie,
a place to rest their own tired bones.

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Environment Poem by Bella G, Year 8 LGGS

Plastic pollution,
Deforestation,
Global warming,
Ice melting,
You’ve heard it all before
So what?
Doesn’t concern me,
Not my problem,
That’s the issue
Yes big companies
Cutting down trees
Mass producing products
Airplanes and cars
Cause it all,
But the reason nothing is changing
Is because no one listens
They brush it off
Assuming some big thing will happen in the future
Not right now
But what about the people facing floods
RIGHT NOW
The polar bears slowly dying
RIGHT NOW
The world dying
RIGHT NOW
This is not some far of thing in the future
This is the now
And it should be the past.