The Drowned Lands

Digging since dawn, bent slant
Against the whistling wind, crushing
With sweet scent the water mint under my boots,
Face whipped by willow; unsteady,
I cling to the iron shove-handlers, feeling like a pennant
Run up a flagpole; hood rippling with gusts.

Across the field, banks hem in the horizon, sky hanging
Heavy over silver coin-puddles of squealing wigeon,
Fastidious-legged godwits; above them arch the flaunting lapwing.
Through the mist, in a soft-trumpeting cloud, butter-billed Bewicks
Raise mud-plated feet amongst the winter wheat.

Fixing the post, tamping down the soil, it seems solid enough:
But no.  Rising water will shoulder it back, lift gate-latch and signpost,
Screen and fence, wash at the wheels of the tractor on the bank
Where it holds empty steel arms to the purple clouds.  The ditch bridge will curve
Like the coil of a breaching sea monster; the bare oak tree reach gnarled fingers
Out of the flood, like the hand of an ancient invader, self-trapped in a chain mail net,
As he flounders in the burning reeds and smothering swamp.


Elaine Ewart, February 2012

Winner of the Fenland Poet Laureate Award 2012

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