I thanked Maggie McIver, deceased, today –
she’d left a bench, with an envied view,
to walkers on top of Blackdown ridge
who sometimes stop to train their eyes,
to stretch a bridge to the northern side
of the gentle Downs that sit so pretty
some ten straight, clear, bright miles away.
Her bench was placed just off the track,
its back to the scores of runners, riders,
far enough to be barely seen and,
unnoticed by most, so no part to play
in lives otherwise much the same, their
homage claimed by things I’ve passed and missed,
no sideways glance, no turning back.
This morning a full spring sun was up, about
and working hard to warm the air, splashing
yellow on rampant gorse below, gregarious as
new spring’s skipping lambs, slowly waking
Belted Galloways. No-one on or near her bench,
I saw when still a quarter mile away, so
I’d get there first, I had no ground to doubt.
And so it was: all others walked right on by,
faithful to their favoured wayside shrines,
left me alone, sole incumbent, undisturbed,
at peace with all things and knowing the day
was set for pleasure, no need to kneel and pray.
But pleasure halted by a brand new view
and I wondered if Maggie had seen such while alive.
The whole expanse from my vantage point
towards the downs was pillowed by a torpid mist,
thick and deep as an Alpine drift,
or a glacier so solid it would surely outlive
even the youngest of our race displaced
by this first visitation of Northern snow,
which freak of nature put nature out of joint.
Had she been here first and beaten me
to this ice-white sparkling monument on
a climb to Blackdown’s top? But soon this marble wonder
melted into mist once more and I marvelled,
with a tingling down my back, how each change
occurred without shifting place or space – one
subtle tweak in my perception reshaping scenery.
And I felt I had climbed above the cloud
to reach a resting place for every lover of this land,
not hers nor mine alone; for the gorse, adorned by
a thousand silver gossamer webs, all dripping dew,
each feather blown, each footprint left, the scattered ash
I knew now were part of me as part of her, as part of
every sentient thing that could claim that it was proud
of all the raw constituents it found upon that ridge:
for me, the four core colours mixed skilfully to make
no more than this morning walk, nor less than an exhibition;
and sitting on Maggie’s bench, no more than a view,
nor less than a life’s entire ambition; a rite to
rock my body free from pain yet rob me of resistance,
to stand on that bench, placing one foot on the bridge.