Yes I do know this isn't a menhir, or standing stone; it was somewhat perplexing to find that, despite the fact I am a self-confessed nut for ancient venerated bits of rock, I don't actually have a photo of a standing stone that also has the requisite atmospheric mist and lack of Yours Truly gurning at a camera. So please be satisfied by this image of The Cheesewring up on Bodmin Moor, taken on a glorious (ha!) day last August.

Anyway...thought it way past time I combined my (possibly unnatural) love for all things old and rocky with my love for writing. I'm reliably informed (by my father) that it is possible to 'get' the rhyme structure if read aloud, preferably by something ancient and flinty (no mum, it's OK; not talking about you).

In the cold dampness of November
Through the glooming light of a half-remembered day
I see you: Longstone
Ancient and beloved, alone
against the gorse and heath and sky.

You are the colour of the moor, its moods and shifts
reflected in the contours of your stone, the drifting
seasons both familiar and strange.
This is not your home; you stand estranged
from land that gripped and held you fast.
Your uniqueness recognised at last by ants
that ripped and dragged and rolled you to this place
to stand, your face turned towards the coming years.

Time has passed; four thousand
years of weathering winds and sun and rain
as lichen crusts the outline of your frame, and generations
pass beneath your shade. Your roots lie deep
within the borrowed earth that once
lay undisturbed, where now the dust of venerators past
can quietly sleep.

And why the toil to bring you to this place?
Why struggle with the soil, to pull and push you far from home
to stretch your twisted angles to the sky,
and grace the landscape with unyielding form? Were you
a marker for the days and years, the key
that unlocked flower and fruit and womb;
the panacea for barren lives and barren land,
whose loam holds those who made your profile true?

Or did they recognise within your form
One who would know, beyond the fragment of their time;
would show the way to mysteries far outside
the wisdom of their years. And could they hear
your call to brothers standing ‘cross the plain,
to another greater higher mind, a name
that quietly waits to speak –

I lay
my cheek against your cold damp skin, and sink
my hands into the glowing moss that shapes
and softens edges, as I wait -
As the wind keens across the heath, and the crow
disturbs the silence of the now.

TAW February 2010


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