I take the Romany’s sprigged heather,
tuck its pink tight buds curled like
baby fists tight as a talisman,
blue with longing, into my bag.
I am pierced mid-flight
by a hint of traveller she sees
within – an Irish woman
on the grandmother side,
Ellen Glancy unschooled, catholic
in tastes and religion,
pawned her soul for potatoes
that lay rotting, bleeding
into darkened sod.
Her pilgrimage to England
and Alfred, then retracing steps
to Enniskillen for the wedding,
returning to peg washing
not in a whipped north-easterly
which cut the souls.
Back across grey waters
fretful and choppy, till her own
broke a tidal wave, her firstborn.
Homesick for emerald patches,
a mercurial sky tilting meniscus,
struggling for freedom.
Iron rain lashes my face,
her slashed smile a rent petticoat.
Merging the troubles one with another,
I take her hand in mine,
it lies still but warm, without
need for words.
I stride the battlements; crenelated Portland stone,
Sheer five hundred feet below grassy fields.
A twenty-mile fish-eye panorama of peaks;
Arkwright’s Sutton Hall, Bess’s glass Hardwick.
Beyond receding greens to softened hues, greys
Through anthracite, slate, to a sooty-blue meniscus
The wind moans the miles, traps whispers in
An ancient avenue of limes to the riding stables, keep.
I descend eroded limestone steps, scoured clean
By tides of serfs; stranded in landlocked Derbyshire.
by Susan Flower (alumna 2010-2011)