I was talking to a gang of Friesian heifers, skittish in the field over a hawthorn hedge when clouds seemed to lower themselves and rain slanted in over the river from the west. It was June and there was some litter in the ditch and I got under a beech tree in full leaf, then an ash, then a horse chestnut – best of all – the conkers still tightly balled, the leaves glossy dark, the cows running in the rain beside the fence, almost udder- less, young and curious, their noses raised, desperate to kiss me. Dream on. The rain hissed like steak or fish in a skillet as I leaned on an iron gate gritty with rust and got my shoes snagged on a loop of barbed wire and saw where hooves printed the black earth with deep, impermanent hieroglyphs that filled with reflections, rain silvering them like mirror backs. Garlic mustard in flower – tiny white starbursts – rank nettles, sorrel waist high. I was thinking about my father and the days he’d stood somewhere like this, waiting for work or a bus in Crumpsall or for rain to stop smoking over the roofs, the city really burning one time in the blitz, though that was night. Thinking about my sons who might one day think about me in this scent of damp foliage and fleece, the face of my watch steaming over and needing a piss (rain does that; some water- sympathetic thing), this poem at the back of my mind let loose in a book, the cows long gone to slaughter after lives of ruminating pasture to cream. It struck me as no small thing to see that crazed elbow in the glass of time and it occurred to me as utterly ordinary, the way all miracles are mundane: rain whispering itself to a kind of nothingness, streams gargling in spate, droplets shining on every spear of grass, mist huffing from meadows of trodden thistle, disappearing from day’s mythic skin, the old terroir of dreams, the mind’s forgetfulness it had drifted in.
Graham Mort (Runner-up in 2016 Canberra VC Poetry Prize).