by Leslie Norris
On hot summer mornings my aunt set glasses
On a low wall outside the farmhouse,
With some jugs of cold water.
I would sit in the dark hall, or
Behind the dairy window,
Waiting for children to come from the town.
They came in small groups, serious, steady,
And I could see them, black in the heat,
Long before they turned in at our gate
To march up the soft, dirt road.
They would stand by the wall,
Drinking water with an engrossed thirst. The dog
Did not bother them, knowing them responsible
Travelers. They held in quiet hands their bags
Of jam sandwiches, and bottles of yeliow fizz.
Sometimes they waved a gratitude to the house,
But they never iooked at us.
Their eyes were full of the mountain, lifting
Their measuring faces above our long hedge.
When they had gone I would climb the wall,
Looking for them among the thin sheep runs.
Their heads were a resolute darkness among ferns,
They climbed with unsteady certainty.
I wondered what it was they knew the mountain had.
They would pass the last house, Lamberts’, where
A violent gander, too old by many a Christmas,
Blared evil warning from his bitten moor,
Then it was open world, too high and clear
For clouds even, where over heather
The free hare cleanly ran, and the summer sheep.
I knew this; and I knew all summer long
Those visionary gangs passed through our lanes,
Coming down at evening, their arms full
Of cowslips, moon daisies, whinberries, nuts,
All fruits of the sliding seasons,
And the enormous experience of the mountain
That I who loved it did not understand.
In the summer, dust filled our winter ruts
With a level softness, and children walked
At evening through golden curtains scuffed
From the road by their trailing feet.
They would drink tircdly at our wall, talking
Softly, leaning, their sleepy faces warm for home.
We would see them murmur slowly through our stiff
Gate, their shy heads gilded by the last sun.
One by one we would gather up the used jugs,
The glasses. We would pour away
A little water. It would lie on the thick dust, gleaming.