The country here is littered with their bones;
Half-hidden carcases lie everywhere –
In ditches, under hedges, in that shed
Collapsing on itself. They are the dead
Left by the weary, never-ending war
Between the land and those who work to claw
A living from thin soil shot through with stones.
A roller, bust in hopeless halves. A plough
With coulters, mouldboards, landsides, beam and share
That once gleamed brightly, pitted, dull with rust;
A baler thick with long-gone summers’ dust;
A set of heavy harrows, choked beneath
Tall nettles, broken tines like missing teeth.
Their fall from grace complete, abandoned now –
Redundant, superseded, or plain wrecked
And left to rot. No money to repair
Or reinstate them. Killed by this terrain –
Its cruel contours, rocks and endless rain –
They stand as red-stained steles to all the hopes
Of fast, efficient working on these slopes
Sharp salesmen led their buyers to expect.
But someone, somewhere, still recalls the day
That shiny new machine was standing there
In pride of place: the farm folk gathered round
To peer and prod; and him, aloof and crowned
With glory as the only one who knew
Exactly how it worked, what it could do –
Not dreaming things could ever end this way.
Another piece brought back from west Wales, where the steep, stony land and pitiless rain are hell on men and machines. This follows the same form as my earlier Insomnia – if only to prove to myself that my invented scheme (with the stanzas linked by the ‘B’ rhyme in the second line – what was I thinking?) would work a second time!