Above the Washburn Valley

by Barry Tempest

The heather is turning brown
and the air is chill
beneath low banks of threatening cloud.
 
Mother made her last walk here,
revisiting her girlhood,
a few unsteady steps
around the watershed
of Wharfe and Washburn rivers,
with the glint of Fewston down below,
and green shoots of heather showing.
 
Then father came in high summer
on the call of the breeding curlews
– with the heather a purple blaze
and a curlew circling three times –
to throw her ashes to the breeze.
 
And here we have come,
the oldest generation now,
with the weight of father
drawn to light grey dust,
and the ashes of his brother
– men born a century ago –
to give them to the gentle winds
as autumn colours cool
and the puff-ball globes of Menwith Hill,
peering into unknown things,
glint sharply in a ray of sun,
and the moor is barren of the curlew.