Child in the Hills

WHERE on these hills are tracks a small foot made,
Where rests the echo of his voice calling to the crows
In sprouting corn? Here are tall trees his eyes
Have measured to their tops, here lies fallow earth
Unfurrowed by terracing ploughs these sleeping years.

Here flow the waters of Carr before his darkened door.
I cannot, see you, child, but I can hear your voice
Shrill and imperious with rain in the beechwood trees.
In the dark hours I have heard your questing words
Creep out of nowhere in the mountain silence;
I have heard your small heart beat with low whispering
In measured breaths of deep night, ebbing and returning.
Now you are shod against the earth.
Once your eager toes were thrust with gladness in the soil
And smooth pebbles welled between your willing toes;
Once you waded the clear stony waters of Carr
And perch fled before your steps in swaying silver zigzags.
Once, waking in the night, open-eyed and wondering
You heard geese flying over, and you listened, breathless;
Once swift feet of horses echoed when your brother died,
Once the waters of Carr rose in the night to flooding
And you heard the swelling voice of the water’s strength.
Now you have fled with the geese, with the hoofs at midnight,
Swept with the waters down the winding mountain valleys,
Drifted into years of growth and strange enmeshment,
But the child did not go. . . .
He is waiting under the shadow of these hills,
In the damp coolness of laurel and rhododendron;
He is lost in the mossy coves, in the lynn’s late sighing.
His voice is drowned in the waters of Carr.