The Road to Tomorrow (revised)

edited October 8 in Poems

I parked the car at Sadgill bridge,
a sad name on a sad day to walk alone
in Longsleddale.

Cirrus clouds smeared the pale sky,
tufts of cumulus competed with ravens
for columns of warm rising air.

Silence everywhere, not even a late
swallow to distract the eye, or mallards
thrashing in a shallow pool; just unwanted peace.

I aimed for Gatescarth Pass and Harter Fell,
relentlessly hiking along the valley floor,
with only hills and herdwicks for companions.

For once, I turned right at the Pass gate and took
the stony path to Branstree’s summit, where I found nothing
save the view over Haweswater’s deep reflections.

No outcrops or dubs to lighten the monotony,
“A flat, featureless and drab dome of grass”
I wrote in my Walker’s Log Book (vol 1).

I sat down on a smooth rock to eat
a Brenand’s steak and kidney pie. I don’t know
why I whistled for Ben; I never had before.

I don’t know why I still carried his plastic
drinking bag, or why I was reluctant
to remove his old lead from my rucksack.

“I will not revisit its summit”,
was the closing line I wrote in my Log,
near Sadgill, on the last walk of the season.


Original
I parked the car at Sadgill
by Garnett Bridge. A sad name
on a sad day to walk, alone, in Longsleddale.

Cirrus clouds smeared the pale sky,
tufts of cumulus competed with ravens
for columns of warm rising air.

Silence, everywhere, not even a late
swallow to distract the eye, or mallards
thrashing in a shallow pool; just unwanted peace.

I always aimed for Gatescarth Pass and Harter Fell,
relentlessly hiking along the valley floor
with hills and herdwicks for companions.

For once, I turned right at the Pass gate and took
the stony path to Branstree’s summit, where I found nothing,
save the view over Haweswater’s deep reflections.

No outcrops or dubs to lighten the monotony,
“A flat, featureless and drab dome of grass”
I wrote in my Walker’s Log Book (vol 1).

I sat down on a smooth rock to eat
a Brenand’s steak and kidney pie. I don’t know
why I whistled for Ben. I never had before.

I don’t know why I still carried his plastic
drinking bag, or why I was reluctant
to remove his lead from my rucksack.

“I will not revisit this summit”,
was the closing line I wrote in my Log,
near Sadgill, on the last walk of the season.

Thanked by 1Gracy

Comments

  • Posts: 0
    Thank you for this powerful (if sad) evocation of the Lake District. Your introduction of "Ben" late in the poem justifies the gloomy atmosphere that pervades the piece. The poem will appeal most to those familiar with the immediate vicinity of Haweswater — for strangers such as myself there is perhaps an over-abundance of local detail. (Maybe I will share my own poem about Helvellyn.)
    I balked over the cirrus clouds that smeared the pale sky. Perhaps another verb could be "swept".
    Cheers, Russ.
  • Thanks, Russ

    You've focussed on two aspects that had me humming and harring from the start. I wondered if the locale would travel, especially for those who were completely unfamiliar with this region. With that in mind I'll attempt to trim a few words here and there, without destroying the sense of place.

    Similarly, I kept looking at 'smeared', mainly because I couldn't shake the medical reference from my mind. However, it does have the effect of tarnishing the valley walk somewhat, and that's pretty much what I was going for. I actually considered a number of alternatives, favouring "smudged" because of its assonant identity with 'tufts'. I think 'smeared' hints at two syllables and fits rhythmically, BUT, I haven't made my mind up yet. Good point, though. 

    Appreciate the thoughtful comments very much.

    Best

    JJ

  • Posts: 0
    .Interesting, JJ. The tone is very sad, a good, but maybe too long introduction to the real issue here. I interpret
    that Ben must have been a much loved dog, as you whistle for him and carry his lead. 
    I've driven around the Lake District, stopped here and there, but never took a long hike. No time, as happens
    when one is on a visit and somebody else is at the wheel.
    I see you've had some good suggestions already. Not being familiar enough with the area, I don't think I'm
    an apt critic for your deft word usage to describe your experience. I like it as is.
    I see you've left "smeared"... a shame, methinks, and it does have medical nuances... LOL.
    I also wonder about "tufts of cumulus". Does cumulus have tufts? Dunno...
    Enjoyed. Makes me want to go back to Britain. It's a long way from Patagonia!
    Gracy

    Thanked by 1jjwilliamson
  • I'd love to see this put into song. We have here the right fellah!
  • Thanks, Gracy

    for the very encouraging and useful response. Very much appreciated.

    Yes, the poem is about the first walk I took after Ben died. He was an old dog of 16 or 17 years so his time had come, but it was still painful to watch him go and it was particularly noticeable on the fells, our favourite fells. However, the poem is also about the speaker and his experiences and observations, which accounts for the preamble. The reader could well be forgiven for switching off before the closing strophes and perhaps that's something I need to address.

    Great to read that you'd visited the Lake District. There's roughly 2000 sq miles to go at so it takes some time to get round it all. *smile*.

    I'm still looking at 'smeared' and really can't make my mind up. I'll let it sit for a few days more before making a firm commitment.

    The tufts of cumulus are remnant parts of the clouds that break away from the main body, giving the impression of tufts of cotton wool, an overused metaphor/simile. I thought about "streaked" but felt that was more akin to cirrus clouds. I know what you mean, though, and will look closely at some of the potential alternatives.

    Delighted you enjoyed. Thanks for letting me know.

    "A Long Way From Patagonia" would make for an excellent title. I'll race you to it, if you haven't already been there. *grin*.

    Thanks again for a very enjoyable critique.


    Best


    JJ


  • Thanks, Alex

    A SONG! Nom de Dieu, that would be too cruel. *LOL*

    Fortunately I have no way of recording such an effort so your ears will be spared the torment.

    I think RC is the man for that if he fancies a bash. A soft and mellow ballad would be my way, if I didn't sound like a duck being castrated.

    Thanks for the thought.

    Best

    JJ

Sign In or Register to comment.