i follow your footsteps through the fen,
dragging past the cotton grass,
slipping on the scree,
and you turn
to say to me:
“when i was
the army.” at 16,
and three days.
furrowed, like a field fresh reaped.
beside us are swathes of yellow petal,
but your hands scrape only the dry gorse,
and i am left holding your footsteps: university,
and the plan to become an architect that you couldn’t
afford. single mother; we’re on the tor now
resting our bones on its licheny stone,
history stacked between us as a cairn.
the clouds cry onto my cheeks,
rain, gentle, landing on our feet,
boots marked with damp sparks,
like mould on school ceilings,
dripping on me working
all the time
all the time.
i never knew why,
you worked for castles in the sky,
and made me, your little foot soldier
of meritocracy. mum, your soles sink
into the feather beds, moss swallowing you
into fears of fucked-up parenting. i’m sorry
that my primary school friends try to kill
themselves with drugs and diet pills.
we sit by a stream, dragonflies
dancing in the water’s
and dandelions drop
their ashes all around.
i ask you.
and no words
are said, of your sister’s
stunted dreams of university,
or when your mum was raped,
younger than me. you give me a half-smile,
and tell me you love me “up to the university”.
finley could never say it properly, but
the stars have more to judge us on.
your hands dig holes in the sod,
and i bury them with rushes.
in the middle distance
stands the dam;
“why is it
you want to
mum, they say
our town is full of scabs,
and that its kids, dear of them,
will never do anything that isn’t
a trade, the army, drugs or just fade
into the ribcage of where they were born.
but what they don’t see,
are the bruises we take,
the scars we cannot name.
a scab is just a plaster,
the body makes for pain,
a dam, to keep two worlds apart,
like the fen and the water,
sitting on two sides of meldon’s dam.
we leave a dent in the moor,
foot steps and fauna frayed:
depressions of our bodies,
and their hiking, unspoken