( Slow TV )
July in Cumbria and they are bringing
five hundred Herdwicks off the fells
to the home farm, for shearing.
It’s a wide valley. The lower slopes,
a bright, almost chemical green,
slant down in symmetrical pleats towards the Esk.
This same bright green drapes a white boulder
which suddenly starts to move. ‘Star, Fetch on!’
Andrew stabs with his horned stick as the sheep climbs higher.
Five men, one girl, and twenty dogs
fan out over a waste of stony acres
Scafell and Scafell Pike, Esk Pike, Broad End.
As the mist burns off they look up,
the fell heaps over them, like a granite wave
rearing skywards before crashing down.
The camera glides silently. On ancient trods
everything narrows to a single line, the dogs
sleek after stragglers like rats.
In these plague times we need places to go in our minds.
Kate sits in a bluebell graveyard, Val
breathes in the sea, at Harwich and Hythe.
I go walking in Eskdale with Andrew
in the big silence, which feels
like one long, sweet note of music.
Ann Pilling 2020
This poem appears in my new book "Ways of Speech" published by Shoestring Press. For details click here.