Nearly Spring

But he was a young man, and the song of the lark made him blissfully happy, stirring the old longing that had accompanied him from Hammont. He felt as if someone were walking behind him with light footsteps, calling his name softly and tenderly.

When he stopped and turned to listen the voice stopped calling out, but when he turned back he felt the presence behind him again, as if it were trying to play a trick on him.

Hans Grimm, “Schlump.” 1928

They turned All Quiet On The Western Front into a Netflix movie, but the year before it was published, Schlump was out in print. It’s similar but not the same, about someone a lot younger than me now, who had the misfortune to be born just before my grandfather’s time and in a different country, so ending up in a trench in France with people like my grandfather, country boys from another country, trying to kill him every day.

I don’t know how that time was. But I’ve had the same feeling sometimes, that something young and happy is looking after me, but only when you’re out of doors, alone, in the sunlight.

And as soon as you stop to think, ‘So what actually is that?’ then it’s gone. I used to know it would be back. This cold, sodden, windy Spring it’s going to be a long time coming.

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Last Defences

I was walking yesterday, up along an old path called Into The Light, along the road a little way then north towards the railway, along an old drove road, towards the house of someone I used to know.

A man was burning a tree fallen in the storms and the pheasants shot into the air as I walked along a cart track underneath where they’d roosted. I went and talked to someone else who knew the same person and we didn’t mention her at all. I got back in the last of the light, out of the light and said hello to someone I didn’t know to stop an old man cycling into me in the dark.

An old apple tree, planted nobody knows when on a drove road most people have forgotten. I think someone long ago threw away an apple core.
Unwanted apples on a forgotten drove road. I think someone long ago threw away an apple core.

I thought about a poem I started years ago. I’ve never been able to finish it. I thought about a girl I used to know in Cornwall and I thought about the Spring coming and the old wartime things you sometimes discover walking here, still littering the fields and hedges after what, 70 years or something. Time moves at different speeds in some places, sometimes.

I don’t know whether to call this Walking With Blue or Last Defences. Let’s stick with the second one for now.


Last Defences


March and the raw wind cradles the rooks calling.

March and the wet wind licks my face

Waiting for the Spring to start

So we can go for a walk together again.

Secret clumps of snowdrops,

Uncleared pillboxes among the hedgerows,

Winter’s last defences mowing down the unwary

As they walk along the oddly empty lane

Unthinking. The sudden burst of flowersIMG_1327

Shattering the grey, reminding you

It really will be Summer again one day.

Cock pheasants clattering,

Calling safe from the guns

Until October now.

Woodsmoke from a bonfire

Clinging to my scarf,

Walking with blue even indoors.

I remember these last days of February too.

Spring term. Mock exams.

Back when everything was new.

And walking with blue

Jeans and dove grey sweater.

It was a poem I’d started then.

I can hear me now, still walking towards me

From the other end of my life

As I walk these different fields,

Too far from home, still walking with blue.

Hello stranger. I knew it was you.

Where’ve you been all this time?

Why didn’t you write and tell me

If you were alright?

If you couldn’t say at least

Why didn’t you write to me?

Why didn’t you write?



© Carl Bennett 2104





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