: a heart-
patch in the bracken.
Today a spat of Valleys rain has stopped it there
but each Easter makes tinder of this hillside,
a swathe of crisp brown question-marks,
fire in them itching to run where it will
and how could you resist it, being fourteen
and full of the slack of the day, of the nothing
to go home to, with a lighter in your jeans,
the others looking on? A fair wind, luck,
and there’ll be sirens this evening, smoke-
signalling We were (are still) here
where they’ll already be too late,
those flatfoots in vizors and fire suits,
cartoon spacemen in the wrong film. Watch
them chasing the last of the flame-snakes,
wriggling here, there. Different greynesses
into the night sky: smoke and steam.
That’s a good day, when everyone wakes
to sodden rakings-over, world restored
to black-and-white, shoots shrivelled
to wisps, bared rocks and birch trunks
scorched, a stink as alkaline as birdlime,
valley like a morning-after ashtray
(yes, you in the dinky estate by the station,
we’ll rub your noses in it), like a riddled grate
of clinker, where coal was. Not far
beneath the skin of new-turfed green,
dug under but still
heart. The scar.
Philip Gross’s collections include The Water Table (2009), which won the T S Eliot Prize, and Later (2013). “Scar” will appear next year in A Fold in the River, a collection set around the River Taff in South Wales.