In Time of Drought

by Chris Bridge

Yesterday we scattered Frances on the moor,
placed her where coming over the fourth hill
you can at last see Whitby Abbey and the sea,
for her the start of childhood holidays.
The four of us – the old and older still –
standing in heather that was tinder dry,
spread gouts of ash that fluffed and breezed,
so we consigned her to our memories.

Fred shook the final specks; I took the urn. ‘Listen,’
he said, ‘Things were much better then. There were
real communities. Most families lived close by
and the lady two streets down did all the laying out.’
I want to challenge but the past is his safe place.
He goes there as the present dries, knowing the ash
will soon be his. We walk across a crumbling crust,
layers of yesterdays, kicked up, becoming dust.

They love these parts, so I drive them round. Memories
like sunshine bound across the moor. It’s never
the same scene. Differently sad, we watch the land
stretch out, and flex to touch a vivid sky.
This winter’s been too long. But as we turn for home
the thickening clouds begin to spill and spatter rain.
The dust first dances then subsides. She’s gone;
it will be spring; it will turn green again.