Somewhere in the shade of beeches, an old man strolls.
He walks in a cloud of nightingales; his ear is filled with blackbirds’ songs,
with nightjars, song thrushes, finches.
Warblers call from the tops of trees. At the edge of the wood
skylarks dip and weave. His step is sure if slow.
He’s walked here for a thousand years, he’s walked here
through all seasons, in thick snow, in spring, in the haunt
of cinnabar moths. Butterflies flicker like fairy lights
his track is crossed by adders, slow worms; lizards
flick their tongues from branches dark with moss.
He cannot imagine another world, a world where names
mark territory with the surety of belonging –
Hale and Swingate, Pantry Wood; Long Plaistow,
Dargate Wood, Crooked Oak and Pantry Field.
He cannot imagine a time when the things he knows have gone
when woods and fields are cleared with machines
he has no idea of. When all this green will be stone and steel
lanes become roads and something called traffic will come to be.
So he walks his journey slow and sure where the twilight
sprinkles diamonds through the leaves
in the haunt of cinnabar moths.