Susan UttingSusan Utting 


Hill Farmer

He knew the nips and tucks of hedge and ditch,
the rise and dip of every fell and run; he recognised
the stagger of a lame sheep, the call of a ewe caught
in a thicket, the thin bleat of a birth-wet lamb.

He loved the camber of each field, knew well the ups
and downs of tricky ground - he'd learned to leap its
unexpected drops, would spot the stones that stunt a crop
before they juddered the plough; he had a way with tares.

What he didn't know was when his Gwennie passed,
how cold his heart would turn, how his lope across the
hills would slow and stumble, how wearying the stretch
of his tilled fields, how steep the slope of the meadow.

Or how the milk-cow would turn cantankerous and dry,
the hens forget to lay, the stove turn difficult and acrid,
how thin and rusty water from the yard pump, how
sour its taste on his tongue, how it stung his throat.

They found him in the yard, eyes open wide, fixed
on the sky, a lamb with breech-roped legs across his chest,
the mother by his side, her thin bleat a delicate lament.

from "New Poems" section of Half the Human Race (Two Rivers Press 2017)

Commissioned by Reading Museum to accompany A Sense of Place, the exhibition of 20th Century landscapes at the Madejski Gallery, 2015-16.

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