Three poems by Clare Crossman

Photo by Gary Butterfield

 

The below poems are taken from Clare’s new collection The Mulberry Tree, forthcoming from Shoestring Press later this year.

 


 
 
 

    The Whispering Land

 

Out on the fell in the wind-staunch houses,
someone will come in from the weather,
take off the bluster of their coat, knock mud
from boots inside the fiercely closed door.
The fire lit to claw back warmth from
the wind’s boom, vans parked up beside
the hen coop: those who live here have room
above their heads, know the ground below their feet.

There are walks over thrown stepping stones,
grey stone bridges, and valleys to drive through
between lit doors. The old trees fill with leaves
every summer, their shadowy tunnel omert;
corridors to walk through unseen.
Until meeting, in the sandstone towns,
streets are greened with conversation
and long dreams
born from the whispering land:
water’s rising, marshed fields.

I think of them as the people of the sky,
the fabric of the place turned and spun
from horizons, where to be is enough.

 

*omert densely covered by trees. Cumbrian dialect

 
 
 

    Shophill Cottage, Kirkhouse

 

We enter upstairs into what once
was the eaves used for the storage of bolts of cloth,
strong cotton, pairs of boots.

Now through the windows, there’s a view
of the farm, square with fan windows,
solid with years and a flock of sheep.

It was a peopled place, needing a shop,
a counter to lean on, scratch of a pen
somewhere to visit for meeting and gossip.

The track by the wall once was a railway
that carried limestone from mines for fired
bricks to make houses.

Is this why the house holds us so gently,
finding society in our footsteps,
our shouts between rooms?

The hill wives have left no ghosts
of the years they arrived out of wild weather.
The place left to settle and creak,

in a slow rise of dust, miles from anywhere,
no longer an empty house on the road.

 
 
 

    Heartwood

 

At the shallow gravelled beck,
water has grown harebells, fragile
and blue. Beyond the streets and bridges
the roads I walked to work.
Among the sandstone houses,
this is the place that held me
with its low mossed walls,
curve of fells and valleys,
answering back only
in silence and weather.

Under the blackthorn tree, suddenly
I am walking fields with my first love,
in sweeping red-berried snow.
And behind the white blossom
hawthorn hedges, my mother and father
sit opposite each other, talking by the fire.

The hawthorn and the rowan,
giving definition to what might be called
belonging, might be called home
and is a heartwood.
Like a lost map of years ago:
a history written on the land,
caught in the light-filled windows
of white farms and the ripening sloes.

 
 

Clare Crossman

About Clare Crossman

Clare Crossman wrote and directed for Community and Theatre in Education in the North West. She wrote poetry as a child but it was not until 1989 after the early death of her father, when she became a member of the New Lakes Poets in Keswick, that she began to publish. In 1996 her first collection 'Landscapes' won the Redbeck competition. Since 2004 she has published poetry with Shoestring Press and was given a Hawthornden Fellowship. She enjoys collaborating with musicians and wrote 'Fen Song: A Ballad of the Fen' with the singer songwriter Penni McLaren Walker. She has recently been involved in 'Waterlight', a film about the chalk stream close to where she lives.