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Sian Thomas

Millbrook West, Ashdown Forest, 21st May

by Sian Thomas
On the A22 the lorries shake.  It’s feisty here,
not like Sussex: a stopping place, anonymous;
a place for passing crimes, stealing cars.
I force myself to leave mine
to the march of someone’s stereo;
its bass nods in the sorrel, the last bluebells.
This is and isn’t Forest.  It’s an odd bit: it’s got traffic
in its ears, cigarette butts, suspicious tissues.

The sun feels like an electric heater.
An aeroplane hums overhead.
I’m going down into the valley.
Cars still hiss above, but here at last
are birches, oaks and the Forest’s end, the pale.
I climb a fallen, living beech.  It waves its leaves in welcome.
A sudden boggy plummet and I slide, notebook flapping,
into mud and sudden white. The ground’s a wedding:
holly flowers sing in spiders’ webstrings.
Ahead, the bridge is smothered.
And I remember today’s my wedding anniversary.
Nine years ago we hitched beneath the ash tree
in my neighbours’ paddock because this is Sussex
and that’s how we do it.
Now a woodpecker yaffles his congratulations.
The stream’s hymning.
The water prays, sinking through the hill.
And my congregation’s made of clumps of grasses,
marsh and crawling beetles.
O bird choir.  O holly flower. O cuckoo.
O mud and sandstone.
Another aeroplane hums. I’m nine years home.