Break the sod with spade’s sharpened edge;
kick it in & push it through that first resisting
skin of earth. Eternal geology of podsol
where a few sparse inches of topsoil (if you’re lucky)
give way to ruptured rock, metamorphosed strata,
schist & gneiss drilled and broken by bracken root –
elongated, blackened, questing fingers which ease
& push themselves caressingly around the crumbling,
What is this turf I cast away so seemingly carelessly
but Dürer’s own? When Man’s Renaissance mind saw & drew
reality — what was really there.
To celebrate the ‘ordinary’ & find such beauty in a blade of grass.
It seemed like millennia I lay there,
absorbing and being absorbed by
the black-brown acid of the moss.
Millennia watched me as my skin, bones and teeth
yellowed, tanned and creased under that weight
of time, history, expectation.
I waited under those rushing, big skies
as they opened to a blue heaven or closed
under a freighted, laden mist & gale.
How heavy is this sodden, retting mass of
sphagnum, heather, trefoil, orchid…
how light the touching, waving bog-cotton
set up under the sky-lark’s invisible song.
This earth-mass of new geology is pressing my bones;
my femur dislodged, my knuckles snapped.
I walked here in a pine forest – felt willow,
rowan caress my face; while looking down on forest
floor sensed dry needles under leathery feet.
I am ghosted by my own presence in the graveyard
of stumps & roots where my only birk is stained, shrivelled –
betula. My bones are sunk in time; the last time
I saw the wolk-pack bring down the three-year-old stag,
his velvet antlers no match for jaw on foreleg and throat.
Geology is bone; the dark & softening peat, flesh;
Turf & sod the skin. I am écorché, flayed, my bones
bleached as schist. The tairsgeir’s blade angles a cut,
kniving down & through, sharply jolted to & fro
the peat torn from its sod-bed, tossed on the bank to lie.
To be wind blown, the abandoned bodach to one side
the fresh and new-cut like bleeding flesh.
There’s my history, down here with me
in my ghost forest, the cutting blades scraping my shins
where families work, men-in-eights, cut & stack & throw:
Thumb prints solidify to stone on the weather-cured peats.
Giles H. Sutherland