The last few days have been so cold here in Monmouthshire that everything outside is completely frozen. It’s been hard work walking up the fields to tend to the horses, over the uneven ground which is now furrowed and unyielding. I’ve been forced to slow down, since any hurrying across the ridges could result in a twisted knee or ankle, then the work would take even longer.
Thinking about being ‘forced to slow down’ reminded me of the first line of a poem I wrote almost seven years ago, whilst living in Scotland. Different season, different place to the here and now, but I’m including it anyway. Poet’s prerogative! I can but hope for clear blue skies and softer ground soon . . .
Straight and True
I’m forced to slow down, so time has too. Now
I notice things I’ve always missed, like
the line from the top of the field to my front door.
Been walking that path through ploughed furrows for
thirteen years and never realised before.
Roman road straight.
How’d the tractor driver get it like that?
A long piece of string? Same as when planting veggies properly?
(Not me; I rush – throw those seeds – get wiggly rows . . .).
Maybe he’s just got a keen eye and a steady hand?
Will doesn’t look like he’s got either – with his
Long red hair and bushy beard, tatty clothes, beer bottles in the cab.
I’ve seen them in there after Will’s abandoned his tractor and gone home.
It’s doing my head in thinking how to get a path so straight.
They’re holding a ploughing competition up the road, so
I’m going to discover the secret.
What a man’s world this is! Huge machines; noisy, dirty beasts,
more powerful than 5,000 horses.
But not as pretty.
Lots of beer and shouting.
Intense faces, focussed on the bare field, and every furrow – straight as a die.
How many ways can you plough one?
More than you’ll ever know.
There’s Will! First prize, big silver cup in hand.
You need patience, he says. Take your time.
Know exactly where you’re going and you’ll get there straight.
Wish I’d met Will thirteen years ago.
Could’ve saved myself a million wobbly lines.
© Elaine Atkins August 2007