Each working day hands clutched
the handle while the bucket swung
slapping the legs as you came
and went through the scullery door,
tempered by the Sperrins’ sharp breath.
I thought your hands arthritic
until told how they were broken.
How while chivvying pigs into a pen
they trapped between wall and metal rail.
Without medical help you’d reset, work on.
Light faded slowly in a small window
when you lay, eyes shut in a hospital bed.
Short of breath you continued to worry
the fleece blanket, then threw it off.
I clasped your failed grip before release.
a saunter on Loughan’s Road my car shadows
the hearse. There is a break in the hedge,
whins’ yellows shimmer on Matt Hall’s patch,
his tumbledown cottage and wrought iron scrap
cleared some fifty year, yet he’s a splinter in my mind
that live-alone man, who sought out company
by my uncle’s farmhouse range, the cut of him
in no-button, sour-stained jacket.
Cords, falling short of muddied hobnails,
so threadbare the wide wale ribs had gone.
In a room choked with bitter pipe smoke
sometimes he’d shake an argument by the shoulders –
lawyer amongst familiar hedgerows – so that aunt
would interpose. “ Now Matt, if you had a good woman
beside you in bed at night you wudn’t say that.”
While waiting for the hearse I gawk down
a loanin’, feel an itch to open a gate at its end,
pour into burnished fields that drowse
under a bruising summer sun, where oul’ mongrels
search out lying sheugh water and shade.
Our family are scattered out in the plantin’
from gap-toothed hedge to dry stone walls
shrouded with ivy. The weemen,
cubs and cutties wield rakes; the men,
armed with well-seasoned pitchforks gather
grasses intil the shape of upturned pudden bouls.
A Ferguson, pullin’ a trailer, rattles around thon stack
on which Uncle Cedric squats four fut aff the ground.
“Gie us a haun up!” gulders ten-year-old cousin Tom,
as he stretches out a stout arm.
This Uncle ( who’s answered the call home
from a clerkin’ job in Leicester) takes hauld
of the younglin’s haun, while he for leverage
stretches out a right fut ontil the tyre.
They haud tight, in balance, until
the uncle’s neck juts forrad. Slowly,
like a gnarled Juniper tree Cedric cowps,
left shouldher and ribcage thump the ground.
Hurted, the uncle whinges, while Tom lies
spread-eagled lukin’ up to the blue sky
shakin’wi laughter, as Cedric hirples away