ANN PILLING: Novelist and Poet

On Sunday this last week, 11th November 2018, acts of remembrance marking the centenary of the ending of World War 1, in which millions of soldiers and civilians died, or were wounded, took place all over the world. In my remote market town in Upper Wensleydale we too remembered the dead.


The silence is too short
it cracks before setting
while the church tower reels from its punch of eleven strokes
and birds fly out of crevices, arrowing
over the fields then drift about like burning scrap.
A band plays ‘Valiant Hearts’, six black-robed clergy form
a line of hunched-up crows
and a child steps forward cumbered with poppies
for her boy father ; the mother holds back
like Niobe, all tears. In the crowd a face cracks
then another, and another, and another.


She can run here, there are no sheep
and the enclosure walls are sound
only the dead lie round
Iveson, Metcalfe, Iveson again.

She circles graves and barks
town dogs bark back, her magpie coat is brash
against the tawny grass
the duns of lichened slab and urn.

Under one stone, farmer and soldier son
face east to boned-out hills
where only silence fills
the shape of words not spoken by the dead.

The son tipped bodies into pits who’d once
heaped bales, the father offered comfort but could not
be heard; they both forgot
the ways of speech, died old here and were loved.

Downwind a shot breaks birds from cover
she hares off, yelps for joy
and comes back panting, then
lies down beside the farmer and his boy,
Iveson, Metcalfe, Iveson again.

Ann Pilling, 2018