Green dominates the northern slope,
for plants below the Cleveland Way grow
lush in this damp ground. Other hues
are scattered, merely playing bit-parts
on this stage: sorrel’s ox-blood sprays;
the pinks of clover and campion; buttercups;
bluebells and occasional clumps of violets,
the whole spectrum being recombined
in white stitchwort and the plantains’ fuzz.
Rain overnight has muddied the path
down to the wyke: I step quickly
to catch up a slipping foot, but stop
a pell-mell descent just short of a drop.
‘Only a bouldery shore’, you’d probably say,
but close examination reveals fossils
in profusion – shells, bits of vegetation,
burrows, and slabs of ancient ripply beach
undercut and tumbled by the sea.
More muted than blooms, the cliff-face
shades from dark blue-grey, past lighter greys
and honeys, to iron’s ruddiness up top.
Like Jupiter’s great red spot, a tawny bulge
has perturbed the horizontals, depressing
a local syncline in the greys – once a runnel
draining through old mud, filled with sand
and smothered by the Jurassic’s rising sea
before a slow concretion into stone.
I’d like longer to explore, but the returning tide
threatens my retreat round fallen rock. I move
quickly from boulder to boulder, taking care
not to turn an ankle on wobbly stones.
I’ve not collected specimens: photographs
will be enough to relive on the computer screen
the variations I’ve seen in colour and form
when the strength to tramp the coastal path
is gone, and my memory has begun to fade.
Wyke: a bay between cliffs in Yorkshire, where a boat can be landed and a path leads up from the shore.
Hand in hand we take the usual path, smooth
and slippery after rain, to the postcard crag.
Grey billows are racing past us, whose blue
interstices let the sun brighten momentarily
a sliver of lime on Causey Pike and burnish
the dull bronze ring of Derwentwater’s oak.
We’d hoped for more: Keswick’s market
had opened under blue sufficient to preserve
the modesty of a million Dutch and, beyond,
Skiddaw was at last unmasked. Yesterday
the fierce gusts hissing in Rossett’s grass
had battered us with cold, slinging mist
low across the pikes. We saw no distant peak,
no point in going on: pleasure could only lie
much closer to – a leafless rowan in the ghyll,
with scarlet bunches swaying above the fall’s
impasto black, white and licheny grey;
the yellowy-green of a sheltered ash;
bread, cheese and a hot drink beside the car;
then bath and bed. Today the squalls
are ripping leaves from their failing hold,
virga is veiling Borrowdale, and Castle Crag
is almost gone. No sense in staying out:
we retreat to the bar of The Dog & Gun
lest the impending rain should drench us
and its cold turn our gloveless fingers numb.
THE OLD MAN OF HOY
The haloed late sun provides my bearing
to the Old Man, whilst the shoulder of Moor Fea –
a shutter half-closed against the glare –
leaves the peaty path beneath sodden, blistered feet
indistinguishable from the tussocky heather
steepening blackly to the sea. Behind, sunlight
sidling into Rackwick after the day’s cloudiness
is picking indifferently among roofless crofts
and the reed-strewn pastures of the solitary farm,
yet holds where the reddish gull-flecked cliffs
curve crumblingly to the strand. There I’d passed
a spittling afternoon watching the retreating tide
dissipate its spillages between huge boules
circumscribed in beiges, dull reds and mauves,
like misshapen planets tossed on some cosmic dump
by their maker’s failing hand. Wincing, I conclude
this pilgrimage to the Old Man’s fissured spire
and head back towards the guest house, the halo
slowly fading into the thickening western sky.
REOCCUPATION, LOCH MORAR
They’d tidied up after the party, leaving
only beer cans and whisky bottles in the grate.
The croft is beyond repair – two tombstones
propped by windowless walls. Surreptitiously,
a rowan is easing apart a corner, freeing to fall
the last rusty piece of corrugated roof. Beyond,
like an inverted mossy octopus, black willow
switches are picketing the reclaimed land.
Mantz Yorke is a former science teacher and researcher living in Manchester, England. His poems have appeared in print magazines, anthologies, and e-magazines in the UK, Ireland, Israel, Canada, the US, Australia, and Hong Kong. His collection Voyager is published by Dempsey & Windle.