From the poet, Mantz Yorke

CLOUGHTON WYKE

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.

 AUTUMN RETREAT

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.

poet, Mantz Yorke

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.

About the contributor

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