Fly

focus photography of a ignited firewood
Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

I reach to take my jacket from the peg
and my eyes again are drawn
to the next peg just along
where hangs a collar and a well-worn leather leash
and once again my eyes begin to mist

Then I wander back in time to when my old pal Fly and I
would go to gather sheep from off the fell

I didn’t need to speak much or tell Fly where to go
for there were no hiding places – not from Fly

She knew each nook and place of shelter
where sheep huddled in bad weather
and turned their backs against the wind and rain
eyes half closed as though in contemplation
deep in thought and cheering on the cud

I did not have long to wait as I stood there by the gate
until faint bleating I would hear above the crags
below the mists that swept and swirled
up in their rocky rooftop world
then single filed they showed upon the trod.

An odd one would make a dash but Fly would turn her in a flash
snapping at her heels in reprimand –
there was no doubting who was in command

Then all were down ‘in bye’
where for winter they would lie
until Spring when they would lamb beside the farm
more sheltered in the valley
from the elements and foxes on the prowl

Then we too would go ‘in bye’
and again I’d welcome Fly to my abode –
no kennel, not tonight
for she had earned herself the right
to dine in and lie beside the kitchen fire

And never will I part with her collar or her leash
or from the friend that in memory I fondly still admire
as now lonesome and in solitude
with misted eyes and heavy heart
I sit alone beside the kitchen fire

Colin Armstrong

Memories

Countryman Poet Colin Armstong in Mungrisdale, 6 April 2017

Colin Armstrong is one of Mungrisdale Writers’ best loved poets. Every inch an inspired Cumbrian countryman, lover of nature and expert on Lakeland dialect, Colin’s poems are deeply resonant and evocative. This off the cuff recording was made during a coffee break midway through our meeting earlier today, 6 April 2017.

Farewell to Summer

lakelandfells

The falls that carry the rains from the fell
To the lake in the valley below
Can be heard crashing down in the distance
Beneath the palest of pale rainbows.
For centuries the waters have worn away
At the slate-smooth side of the fell
And now from a polished rock flute they have formed
Spout like a flared white peacock’s tail.
It is not even yet November
And bright berries the holly adorn,
But without the sound of crashing falls
There’d be nothing to welcome the morn.
The songbirds now are silent
From them no dawn chorus rings
For temperatures falling with incessant rain
Have dampened their spirits to sing.
Whilst on Loweswater’s swollen feeder streams
Leafy flotillas go sailing by,
Leaves of oak and ash and chestnut
Cascading from on high.
And alongside the falls side by side are stood
Golden fans of bracken
And bright green ferns of the wood.
The bright evergreen of ferns unchanging
Whilst brackens change from gold to brown
And will finally submit to winter
Who’s sharp frosts will lay them down.
Winged seeds of the sycamore too spiral down
From branches that sway in the breeze,
And red paint declares the sentence of death
On diseased and unsafe trees.
Plastic mesh across footpaths
And signs to say, ‘This way is closed’
For torrential rains and gale force winds
On the woods have taken their toll.
Some of the older and taller trees
Have been toppled by the gales
And after seasoning and sawing
Will become gates and fencing rails.
Nothing here is left to waste,
All will be gathered in,
Brambles for jam, elderberries for wine,
Sloes to colour and flavour gin.
For after all, when gifts are free,
To waste would be a sin.

Colin Armstrong