Fen, Again

You have heard all the web-footed tales by now
scribbled on three quarter slate
the child-drawn horizons, the cathedral ship,

the most dangerous ditches, reported
in the Fenland Citizen, in which
the cars lie half empty and half full.

You recognise the white and red of the Polish shop fronts,
that mud-stubborn streaks down from Hereward the Wake
to the Fen Tigers. That once the land was drained.

But you have yet to learn the date the swans return each year,
the teal shade of a leek field, the blue of workers’ overalls
moving through the lines like a machine, like an instinct.

That each winter the road to Welney floods
and there’s a woman who meets the delivery man
halfway across the wooden footbridge at Sutton Gault,

to receive her organic veg box. At midsummer
last year, a seal made its way from King’s Lynn
all the way to the lock at Earith.

This is the fence standing firm three years since I helped build it,
even while unseasonable spring rain burst the banks
and lapwings’ eggs bobbed in the clear waters.

In this car park, amongst gold and burgundy leave,
I exchanged family secrets with a friend
I was never to meet again.

Elaine Ewart

Commended, Resurgence Poetry Prize 2015