The Darkness Falls at Thy Behest

by Olivia Tuck

for Grandad

Beyond the window, summer is packing up,
the way we used to gather the leftovers, fold the picnic blanket

and carry it – and the hamper – back to the car’s open boot.
Once, you’d have told me why the air seems to cling. Now,

the long shadows stare as you lie, your scalp against the pillow.
Your breaths come like smoke rags crossing a waning moon.

Deep inside my eleventh August, you said we could travel
forwards in time, but never back. We’ll never reclaim

Liddington Hill, an upturned cooking apple against low sky,
its trees a garland of broccoli florets, its forgotten Easter cross;

the stout mossy church, the slide that burned our knees;
the grave that asked for wild garlic, for a yew’s generous shade.

Later, there’ll be thunder. The wind will shred the heat.
The Downs will stare, like the shadows, as our horizon blurs,

as the marsh floods at the thought of the year growing old.
You’ve chosen the hymns – just the hymns. Listen,

I could read another chapter. Or I could sing:
the day Thou gavest, Lord of all hopefulness, is ended.

Many things are bright and beautiful,
but not this. Never this.