The hills

by David Swann

If they were boats, the rain had tipped them
the wrong way up, put their hulls in the sky.

If they were walls, the walls worked. They kept
strange things out. They put us in our place.

Their loneliness scared us. If they were prone
lions, they were old and under the weather.

If dogs, dogs that had gone off their back legs,
that lay around all day on the town’s edge

in loveless packs, the wind shivering in furs
of grass. Curs maybe. Unwardened. Unlicensed.

You could beat them any way you liked:
stick in needles to make ‘phones work.

gouge them for slate. Their owners never came.
Sometimes they were less even than dogs,

sometimes they looked more like bodies
under sheets, in the rain. And finally

I knew them as trains, fleets of prows
pointing west, that restless folk rode away on.