Issue 29: Laurence Morris

New town, old country

Princess Anne Park was a thousand bulldozers flat,

open country sculptured into municipal perfection

between low-rise housing and the hypermarket.

New model districts had numbers to hide the past,

their tenants re-aligned along roaring tarmac leylines,

post-war dreams made concrete in youth theatre

and jobs in cars, chemicals and R&D for the NCB.

In the rose-beds too, in solid work by decent people.

It all got old so bloody fast. The concrete got cancer,

the theatre went under and the recruiting sergeant

reports the youth would stab the moon if they could,

the heritage plaques to remind people who they are

no more relevant than a royal wedding, elections

or the trolley in the boating lake, playing at Excalibur

as a lonely walker trudges out around the water.

Those who stayed bear their memory like a wound.






Quick! Off the path, run low

in the glare of a winter sun

behind a threadbare hedge,

panic up like bile, hunted limbs

too slow for cloying earth,

lungs screaming for the copse

where leaves disguise flight

as brambles claw at thighs,

no pause to the rasping chase

as the hue and cry arises

and the greenwood falls

down into a gully’s snare,

desperate until sleepers

pass over howling blackwater

and help haul in the skyline

where with a frantic left and right

fear finds the outlaw seconds

in which to breathe and plan.

Now stalk a cloven animal trail

in ploughed and pesticidal fields,

old boundaries ruptured

and land stripped of meaning,

too open for a fugitive, it whispers

          you’re not supposed to be here,

beside a ditch, running for a oak,

          you don’t belong here,

anxiety jerking at an engine howl,

          get back where you came from

and ease your fear in a soma dream,

          stay in your lane.

Although when the keepers are loose

there is always someone watching

so vault a fence and look honest

on the corner as a gun dog snaps

but the plaid shirt sentinel nods

and all is well in England now.






(for Richard Llewellyn)

Autumn is the best time for lonely passage

between the dark and far-off kingdoms

where we should really not be wandering

but it was New Year when I washed up

in the ailing slush below the ski centre,

condemned by letter to five days jail-time,

a purgatory to endure in a concrete playpen

grafted onto the shoulder of something real,

drinking in overpriced and depopulated bars

to confirm each one as too remote to flourish,

too far removed from the fashionable haunts

of their more ideal demographic: spoilt youths,

the freshly single and manicured ski instructors,

not garrulous geriatrics and passing wayfarers,

not one exceeding the requisite pint per hour

until at nightfall I would emerge to study

the receding promise of the mountain skyline

and know I should be out there, up there

where the wind and the rain are real

and where I could find more meaning

in the violent heart of a Hogmanay storm

than in a thousand air-conditioned nightclubs,

and so to murder hours I conjured moorland,

summoning mind maps of perfect wasteland,

unfurling new worlds like Arctic tundra,

perpetual wilderness save for the railway

where geese rise with day above the track,

that snow-strewn line as reassuring and as holy

as firelight blue in the dark of midwinter,

and all this while the charm was passing,

those inaccessible mountains still my skyline,

the shoreside path still submerged and frozen

and still I waited for the elusive company

to drive away that sense of sour complicity

which can come with too much thinking

of the world and how we move within it,

that same feeling of helpless disconnection

which once caused an exhausted Welshman

in the fields of cold and distant Patagonia

to perceive that, sadly, people everywhere

are seldom more than far-flung parishioners,

still confined by the all-enclosing walls

of whichever distant slum or valley

they dreamt they had slipped free from.


[Laurence Morris works in academic libraries and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. His poems explore perceptions of landscape, and have been published in 192, Confluence, Ink Sweat and Tears, The High Window, Scottish Mountaineer, Snakeskin and Spelt, among other places.]



Copyright © 2022 by Laurence Morris, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the jou