The Gift

The Gift 


“You have his hands” they say.

Blunt, broad, and strong;

the rounded nails and heavy palms, his grip.

Some memory, stored within each line,

each fingertip, each scar, from half a life away.

Old-leather hard with work and age;

weather-carved and worn with every stone

he lifted, shifted, placed with care,

deliberate as fate. The walls still stand,

no mortar taints their bones. A fossil

skeleton of ancient land and shallow earth,

where grey sheep band to shelter in their lee.

His lifelong craft a legacy of landscape

and perspective. Scrubbed each night,

as if in shame, they rubbed the aromatic

filling for his pipe, and whispered of his day.

A dead thumb, once crushed, tamed

and tamped the sparks into

the glowing bowl. Their touch and warmth

have left no marks, no dusty, half-remembered

scent of shaving soap or soil. I wear the gloves

unseen, and proud. Their heavy knit a map

of toil, and quiet love.



Authors note: This poem was sparked by a chance remark my Mother made. My Grandfather was a mason by trade, and skilled in the art of dry-stone walling. As I child I would sometimes accompany him to work in the Peak District of Derbyshire. Each time I return there the walls he built and repaired are a reminder of his enduring presence - both in the landscape and my life.


Incidentally (and I have no idea who the author is) there is a short ditty regarding this ancient art:


Ode to a dry-stone waller


I am a dry-stone waller.

All day I dry-stone wall.

Of all appalling callings

Dry-stone walling's worst of all.



◄ Phoenix

the doomsday man ►


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Chris Dawson

Thu 19th Mar 2009 17:04

Really liked this,

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sian howell

Wed 18th Mar 2009 15:50

Hh wow, how this evokes such an element of inheritance and shared history. Simply lovely. Sian x

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Steve Regan

Mon 16th Mar 2009 00:59

Walls, they are so very important, being humanity's principal marks on the Earth (China's Great Wall being so huge it is visible from space), and being symbols of the bounds of human freedom. Walls... as someone who currently works near Chester and who once lived in Colchester, I am always reminded of Auden's brilliant poem 'Roman Wall Blues'. And, of course, the thuggish rulers of Germany were righly told: "We don't need walls to keep our people in". Poets, at the moment you don't need to fight for your freedom to express, but soon you might have to.

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Sun 15th Mar 2009 13:13

Hi Anthony,

i like this poem of yours - it reminds me a bit of Heaney in its depiction of love through the humbled pride of a child


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