The Stones Language

Brimham Rocks

Small hands hang inside
Pale blue Ford Anglia window bottom
Watch hurried mares’ tails flick sky
As worsted jacket, waistcoated grandad
drives over the sandy side road
Bare shorted legs dangle over
Tartan picnic blanket/ car seat cover,
let loose easy leap Millstone rock to rock,
small hands, feet sure of themselves in youth,
adventure dark hollows, Spiderman
up weathered smooth sanded climb
till Mam/Dads shouts call down
for milky tea poured from top blue flask
white plastic cream cup, coleslaw,
crisps, cheese and cucumber sandwiches,
then one last clamber before home
snuggled into car seat blanket waft
Golden Virginia grandads tobacco pouch,
lullabied thud, engine rumble
Cradled to bed by Dads arms.

Malham Cove

School coach trip, aged 14, as dry stone wall settles
on the ground it strengthens itself tightens up,
stone language, harsh Millstone Grit to soft Limestone
once coach underwater diving a new world, breathe easier
Gordale Scar, no bullying scar hurt glorious edge
dried waterfall, hike to Tarn, not Barnsley Tarn,
Malham Tarn, buildings rare, no pubs, no roads,
no red brick terraces here, only water. Water coursing
Clints/grykes, pavement lacking bins, lampposts,
Zebra crossings. Water work
Underground, hidden rivers reverberated
memory then history. Took it back as new dialect.

Striding Edge

Two stairs down from landing
Sister and I safe
Neither half up, or halfway..
Hill/Mountainside braced against icy
Gust Mam/Dad below igneous lava erupt at each other two hills supported us till now
Silence, lounge door opens Mam climbs
Stairs/hill/mountainside, and as she speaks ice encrusts solid rock expands
Rock falls away making valley sides
Sister and I stand on Striding Edge razorback, serrated edge five years later
Cold mist, prevailing wind, ice brings wet eyes
Skyblue Flying Monks Air Venture Scout Sweatshirts,
black M superimposed over black F. bird of prey
with divorced Dad hiking Helvellyn,
sandstone step gingerly damp slips hands/boots,
Kevin Keegan Afro black sheep fleece flops side to side
hiking boot midair, sharp intake,
drop down to Red Tarn somewhere in mist,
Somewhere in mist Sisters/Dads hand.
Manoeuvre frozen legs, up, over, round,
Shifting from one side edge to the other,
Weeks with Mam, Weekends Dad,
Careful what you say, interrogation from both.
Mist clears enough for summit sight.
Time away at college. Focus.
Careful to have three rock holds. Focus.
Remember once summit reached
always another higher later.
My hands support Sister/Dad/Mam
when sides
fall away.


Where the linnet calls
It breaks big white back
Of winter; craggs out
Grey veins dry stone walls
Of territory.

Cock Ring Ouzel calls
Cock Lapwings tumble
Short Eared Owls hunt
Wasteland: incomers.
Birds come upstream bones
Moved by these false springs.

Then the Curlew calls.
Spring staggers from brok
en white shells, tubers
Unsteady or sharp
Suck out hill’s feathered

There the Golden Plover
Takes fledglings across
Warming ice: snow broth
Whispers down to crack
The river’s quiet
Hibernating voice.

Copyright Paul Brookes, i.e. Me. Published in broadsheet 1993

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